Food Poisoning 101

Food Poisoning 101

Author Cathleen McKnight, DNP, APRN

We’ve all been there. The terrible, awful feeling you get after eating something that doesn’t sit well. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), foodborne illness, also known as food poisoning, plagues 1 in 6 Americans yearly. Here’s the quick and icky 101 about food poisoning.

What is Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning, which is caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites, describes an unpleasant illness that can trigger nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and fever. Symptoms can happen at any point, from as soon as ingestion to days or weeks later, depending on the cause. Food poisoning can affect people differently, so while some may have mild symptoms, others may be in great discomfort.

How Do I Make Food Poisoning Go Away?

Most of the time, food poisoning is self-limiting, which means it subsides without formal medical treatment. Due to the nature of the symptoms, your body loses significant fluid and may become dehydrated. To prevent dehydration, take small, frequent sips of fluid throughout the day, or consider an electrolyte drink. To support recovery, get plenty of rest.

If symptoms persist longer than 3 days, worsen (e.g. increased belly pain or high fever), concerning symptoms appear (e.g. blood in stool) or the individual is unable to drink fluids, see a local Clinic Healthcare Practitioner or primary healthcare practitioner for evaluation.

Some individuals are at higher risk for food poisoning, such as older adults, children, those with weakened immune systems or pregnant women. Folks with a higher risk should avoid partially cooked or raw animal products, juices, unpasteurized or raw milk and soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. High risk persons with food poisoning symptoms should seek evaluation earlier as complications are more likely to occur.

How Do I Prevent Food Poisoning?

Follow the CDC’s 4 Simple Steps at home to prevent food poisoning:

  • Clean: Wash your hands and surfaces often
  • Separate: Don’t cross contaminate (e.g. raw meat, seafood and eggs)
  • Cook: To the right temperature
  • Chill: Refrigerate promptly and keep your refrigerator below 40°F

Explore more healthy living advice from our team of experts.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.