Treating Food Poisoning
Having a food-borne illness can be miserable. While you think you might die, most cases are over within a few short hours. If a food-borne illness is not serious and doesn’t meet the criteria for seeking medical care, it can be treated at home.
Food Poisoning Self-Care
The most important thing to do is stay hydrated. Drink small sips of clear fluids as often as you can. Water is fine, as are diluted sports drinks. Avoid caffeinated beverages, alcohol, or sugary drinks.
Don’t start eating until vomiting has stopped. When it has, eat only bland, easy-to-digest foods, like rice, potatoes, low-sugar cereals, and lean meat. You can take an over-the-counter medication for nausea, but never take more than the recommended dose.
The body uses a large volume of water in the digestive process, and if it loses too much too quickly, severe dehydration can occur. That puts you at risk for other complications, like shock. Be on the lookout for signs of dehydration, which include: pale, clammy skin, crying without tears, and dry, cracked lips.
Call Your Doctor
If you think you have eaten contaminated food, call your local Poison Control Center. They can answer questions and provide information on what to do next. Poison Control Centers are usually listed with other emergency numbers in your telephone book.
Children, pregnant women, and people with chronic conditions, such as diabetes or HIV, should contact their physician at any sign of a food-borne illness.
Contact your physician if you:
Have diarrhea and are unable to drink fluids due to nausea or vomiting
Are on diuretics and have diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
Have diarrhea that lasts for more than two to three days
Have blood in your stools
Have a fever over 101°F
Call 911 or take the person to the emergency room if bleeding is excessive or your stools are maroon or black; you are short of breath or having trouble breathing or swallowing; your heart is racing, pounding, or skipping; or you may have poisoning from mushrooms, fish, or from canned food, which might indicate botulism.
When you seek medical care, the physician will want to first assess how sick you are, then determine the cause. The physician will perform a physical, order blood tests, and may do urine and fecal screens. If the illness is caused by a toxin, treatment options may include pumping the stomach or giving medications as antidotes. For a microorganism, rehydrating the patient is often the first concern. Antibiotics are sometimes given, but usually just in cases of travelers’ diarrhea.