If you have a bacterial infection in your gut, you may experience symptoms like vomiting, severe abdominal pain, fever, blood in your stool, or diarrhea. You should visit a doctor if symptoms don’t improve after 5 days.

Bacterial gastroenteritis happens when bacteria cause an infection in your gut. The infection leads to inflammation in your stomach and intestines.

If you have bacterial gastroenteritis, you may also experience symptoms that include:

  • vomiting
  • severe abdominal cramps
  • diarrhea

While viruses cause many gastrointestinal infections, bacterial infections are also common. Some people call these infections food poisoning.

Infection can occur after close contact with animals. You can also acquire an infection by consuming food or water contaminated by bacteria, or the toxic substances produced by bacteria.

Bacterial gastroenteritis symptoms vary depending on the bacteria causing your infection. According to 2021 research, symptoms may include:

Talk with a doctor if your symptoms do not improve after 5 days. In children, contact a doctor if symptoms do not improve after 2 days or vomiting continues after 12 hours. You should also reach out if a baby younger than 3 months has diarrhea or vomiting.

Treatment is meant to keep you hydrated and avoid complications. It’s important to not lose too many nutrients, such as sodium and potassium. Your body needs these in certain amounts in order to function properly.

If you have a serious case of bacterial gastroenteritis, you may be admitted to the hospital and given fluids and salts intravenously.

Antibiotics are usually reserved for the most severe cases.

Home remedies for mild cases

If you have a milder case, you may be able to treat your illness at home. Try the following:

  • Drink fluids regularly throughout the day, especially after bouts of diarrhea.
  • Eat little and often, and include some salty foods.
  • Consume foods or drinks with potassium, such as fruit juice and bananas.

A few ingredients you may have at home can help keep your electrolytes balanced and treat diarrhea. Avoid eating dairy, fruit, or high fiber foods to keep diarrhea from getting worse.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications that neutralize your stomach acid can help. Medications that treat symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain can help ease the stress and pain of the infection.

However, do not take OTC treatments unless your doctor tells you to do so. Go to the hospital if you can’t keep any fluids down.

Many bacteria can cause gastroenteritis, including:

Bacterial gastroenteritis outbreaks can happen when restaurants serve contaminated food to many people. An outbreak can also trigger recalls of produce and other foods.

Bacteria that cause gastroenteritis can be easily transmitted from person to person if someone carries the bacteria on their hands.

Every time a person with a bacterial infection touches food, objects, or other people, the bacteria have a chance to be passed on to others. The bacteria can even be spread through your own body if you touch your eyes, mouth, or other open parts of your body with hands that already have an infection.

You’re especially at risk of these infections if you travel a lot or live in a densely populated area. Washing your hands often and using hand sanitizer with more than 60 percent alcohol can help you avoid contracting infections from other people and your surroundings.

Specific strains of bacteria can cause several types of intestinal infections.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that this infection occurs when you eat raw or undercooked pork contaminated with Yersinia enterocolitica.

Yersiniosis symptoms can occur 4 to 7 days after you’re exposed. They may include:

  • fever
  • stomach pain
  • diarrhea

Staph food poisoning

Foods that are contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria can cause staph food poisoning. These include:

  • meat
  • eggs
  • dairy products

Staph poisoning causes symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps, according to the CDC. They can occur within hours of consuming food or drinks contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus.

If you do get staph food poisoning, know that severe illness is uncommon and symptoms don’t usually last longer than a day.


The CDC says that drinking water containing Shigella bacteria can cause a type of infection called shigellosis.

Typically, shigellosis symptoms begin 1 day after infection and can last up to 7 days. They include:

  • fever
  • stomach cramps
  • diarrhea

Although most people don’t need antibiotics, they can help shorten the duration of symptoms. Your doctor may recommend them if you have a weakened immune system.


Salmonellosis is a common infection that occurs when you eat foods contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. These may include:

  • meat
  • eggs
  • dairy products
  • certain vegetables, such as sprouts

The CDC estimates that Salmonella bacteria cause about 1.35 million infections every year in the United States. This makes Salmonella one of the most common causes of foodborne illness.

Salmonellosis usually causes symptoms like cramps, fever, and diarrhea. They can occur between 6 hours and 6 days after infection and may last up to 1 week.


This type of intestinal infection is caused by the Campylobacter bacteria, the CDC says, which is most often found in undercooked meat and poultry.

Generally, symptoms begin 2 to 5 days after infection. They include:

  • fever
  • stomach cramps
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea

While most people recover from campylobacteriosis without treatment, others can have serious complications and may require antibiotics to get better.

E. coli infection

According to the CDC, E. coli infection occurs when you eat foods contaminated with bacteria called Escherichia coli. These bacteria are often found in beef, salads, and certain vegetables, such as sprouts.

If you have an E. coli infection, you might have symptoms like cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. These usually start about 3 to 4 days after you’re exposed.

Although most E. coli infections are mild, certain strains can cause serious complications which may require hospitalization.

Therefore, talk with your doctor if you:

  • are unable to keep down liquids
  • have bloody diarrhea
  • experience diarrhea that lasts for more than 3 days and is accompanied by a high fever

If you already have gastroenteritis, take safety precautions to avoid transmitting the bacteria to others:

  • Wash your hands after using the toilet and before handling food.
  • Do not prepare food for other people until symptoms improve.
  • Avoid close contact with others during your illness.
  • Try to wait at least 48 hours before returning to work after your symptoms stop.

You can also help prevent infections by avoiding unpasteurized milk and raw meat or shellfish. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw and cooked meats, and wash salads and vegetables thoroughly. Make sure to store foods at either very hot or very cold temperatures if you’re storing them for more than a few hours.

To take other preventive measures, you can:

  • Keep your kitchen consistently clean.
  • Wash your hands after using the toilet, before handling different foods, after touching animals, and before eating.
  • Drink bottled water while traveling abroad and get your recommended vaccines.

If you have a weakened immune system because of an existing condition or treatment, you may have a higher risk of bacterial gastroenteritis. The risk also increases if you take drugs that decrease your stomach’s acidity.

Handling food incorrectly can also raise your risk of bacterial gastroenteritis. Food that’s undercooked, stored too long at room temperature, or not reheated well can aid in the spread and survival of bacteria.

Bacteria can produce harmful substances known as toxins. These toxins can remain even after reheating food.

Your doctor will ask questions about your illness and check for signs of dehydration and abdominal pain, as recommended in a 2021 study. To find out which type of bacteria is causing your infection, you may be asked to provide a stool sample for analysis.

Your doctor may also take a blood sample to check for dehydration.

Bacterial gastroenteritis rarely causes complications in healthy adults and usually lasts less than a week.

Older adults or very young children are more vulnerable to the symptoms of gastroenteritis. They’re also at a higher risk of complications. If you have a loved one at a higher risk, keep a close eye on them so they can get medical care if they need it.

Complications of these infections include high fevers, muscle pain, and inability to control your bowel movements. Some bacterial infections can cause:

Quickly seeking treatment for bacterial gastroenteritis lessens your risk of complications.

Children can be more prone to bacterial gastroenteritis than adults.

For example, a 2015 report by the CBD states that children in the United States under 5 years are more likely to get most bacterial infections, including Salmonella.

Most Salmonella infections happen when children consume contaminated food or water or come into contact with animals that carry the bacteria.

Young children are also more likely to get infections from Clostridium difficile. These bacteria are mostly found in dirt and animal feces.

Children are more likely to develop infections from these types of bacteria. However, like adults, children are susceptible to any bacterial infections.

Make sure that children practice good hygiene, wash their hands regularly, and avoid putting their hands in their mouths or near their eyes. Wash your own hands after changing a baby’s diaper.

Wash and prepare food for children thoroughly, cooking raw dishes like eggs, vegetables, and meat until they’re well done.

Many symptoms of bacterial infection in children are the same as symptoms in adults. Young children are especially prone to diarrhea, vomiting, and fevers.

One unique symptom of these infections in children is a dry diaper. If a child hasn’t needed a diaper change for over 6 hours, they may be dehydrated.

Talk with your doctor right away if your child or a child in your care has any of these symptoms. If they have diarrhea or other related symptoms, make sure they drink plenty of fluids.

After seeking treatment or medical care, get plenty of rest to help your body recover from the infection.

If you have diarrhea or vomiting, drink plenty of liquids to keep yourself hydrated. Avoid dairy or fruit, which can make diarrhea worse. Sucking on ice cubes can help if you can’t keep food or water down.

Many bacterial infection outbreaks result from contaminated food making its way to grocery stores and then being sold to consumers. Keep up on news stories about public outbreaks and check certain foods for contamination.

Bacterial gastroenteritis usually lasts for 1 to 3 days. In some cases, infections can last for weeks and be harmful if left untreated.

Seek treatment as soon as you show symptoms of an infection to stop the infection from spreading. With good medical care and proper treatment, your infection will likely go away in a few days.