Food poisoning can cause nausea and vomiting. These symptoms generally resolve on their own without medication, but there are some precautions you can take to avoid complications and ease discomfort.
Food poisoning occurs when you ingest pathogens through food. This can result in gastroenteritis, which involves unpleasant symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Depending on the pathogen, the symptoms of food poisoning usually pass on their own within a few days. However, it can be very unpleasant, and you risk becoming dehydrated.
Food poisoning can cause dehydration. Excessive vomiting and diarrhea can lead to your body expelling too much water. When too much water is lost, your body may have difficulty performing basic functions.
To avoid severe dehydration, which needs to be treated in a hospital, try to stay hydrated at home. Sip water when possible. Use an electrolyte solution, which can be bought over the counter (OTC) at a pharmacy.
If you don’t have an electrolyte drink, you can make your own using:
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 teaspoons sugar
- 1 liter (4.2 cups) water
Be sure not to add more salt or sugar than specified, as this can be dangerous.
If you’re not able to keep water down, or if you’re unable to drink at all, it’s important to seek medical attention. Severe dehydration is treated with intravenous fluids.
Sip ginger tea
If you’re feeling up to it, try drinking ginger tea.
Not only is it a way to stay hydrated, but it may also relieve the symptoms of food poisoning. Some
It’s important to avoid exerting yourself through physical activity because gastroenteritis puts you at risk for dehydration.
Although the vomiting and diarrhea might last as little as a few hours, it might take longer for your energy levels to return to usual.
Try a warm compress
Gastroenteritis and food poisoning can cause abdominal discomfort. A warm compress, such as a microwavable beanbag or a hot water bottle, might bring you some relief.
Eat when possible
When you’ve stopped vomiting, try eating small portions of food.
Rich food might irritate your stomach further, so you might prefer bland foods like:
- plain rice
Keep drinking fluids, too.
Your local pharmacist can suggest OTC medications for food poisoning.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to get electrolyte drinks or oral rehydration sachets, such as Pedialyte.
If vomiting and diarrhea don’t resolve in a few hours, and if you cannot keep water down, it’s best to go to the emergency room.
Clinical treatment for food poisoning can include prescription medications, such as:
- antiemetic (anti-vomiting) medication like chlorpromazine (Thorazine) and metoclopramide (Reglan and Metozolv)
- antiparasitic medications such as metronidazole (Flagyl) or ivermectin (Stromectol) if you’ve been exposed to a parasite
To treat dehydration, you may be put on an IV drip. This replenishes your hydration levels intravenously.
Most of the time, you don’t need to see a doctor or healthcare professional to recover from food poisoning.
- have bloody diarrhea
- have a fever over 102°F (39°C)
- are unable to keep liquids down
- have signs of dehydration, such as dizziness, little or no urination, and a very dry mouth and throat
- experience diarrhea for more than 3 days
For children, especially babies, it’s important to go to the emergency room if they can’t keep liquids down.
What are the symptoms of food poisoning and other foodborne illnesses?
The symptoms of food poisoning can include:
- stomach cramps
These symptoms commonly resolve in a day or two, but they might last longer depending on the pathogen that caused the poisoning.
What should you do if you suspect you have a foodborne illness?
You can usually recover from food poisoning and foodborne illnesses at home.
During the recovery period, drink plenty of fluids, including water and electrolyte drinks. Get enough rest and consider using ibuprofen for fever and cramps.
However, you should go to the emergency room if you:
- have diarrhea for more than 3 days
- have bloody diarrhea
- have a fever over 102°F (39°C)
- vomit up liquids
You should also seek emergency help if you have signs of dehydration, including:
- little or no urination
- very dry mouth and throat
The CDC asks that you
How long does food poisoning last?
Food poisoning typically lasts a few days, but it can last weeks, depending on which pathogen caused food poisoning.
- Bacillus cereus, a form of bacteria, can cause symptoms that last
24 to 48 hours.
- Cryptosporidium causes symptoms that can last
1 to 2 weeks.
- E. coli symptoms usually last 3 to 7 days.
- Giardia lamblia symptoms can last
1 to 3 weeks.
- Listeria symptoms can last
1 to 3 days.
- Norovirus symptoms usually last 1 to 3 days.
- Rotavirus symptoms usually last
3 to 8 days.
- Salmonella symptoms can last
4 to 7 days.
Contact emergency medical services if you experience diarrhea symptoms that last for more than 3 days or if your stools are bloody.
Can antibiotics treat food poisoning?
Yes, if the food poisoning was caused by bacteria. However, food poisoning can also be caused by viruses, so antibiotics won’t work.
What can you do to prevent food poisoning?
To avoid food being contaminated by pathogens, practice good hygiene when preparing and eating food.
- Wash all food and cooking equipment before using it. Make sure you wash your hands before working with food or eating.
- Keep foods refrigerated. Your refrigerator should be at 40°F (4°C) or below. Refrigerate fresh foods as soon as you get home from grocery shopping. The
CDCrecommends refrigerating leftovers within 2 hours of cooking.
- Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood away from other foods. Don’t store them in the same container. Use separate cutting boards for raw meats.
- Cook meat, seafood, eggs, and poultry at the right temperature to kill bacteria.
- Discard food that has been left out for too long.
- Avoid drinking contaminated water. When hiking, camping, or traveling to unfamiliar regions, be sure to check that the water you’re drinking is safe.
Keep your eye on the FoodSafety.gov site to stay in the loop on product recalls and outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.
Food poisoning symptoms usually go away after a few days. While treating food poisoning at home, try to stay hydrated by drinking a lot of liquids, including electrolyte drinks.
You can also ease discomfort by resting and using a warm compress on your stomach. Some over-the-counter medications may provide relief.
Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.