Food poisoning symptoms usually start within a few days of eating the food that caused the infection, but can also start after a few hours or not for a few weeks.
The symptoms can usually be treated by yourself at home and usually pass within a week.
Food poisoning is caused by eating something that has been contaminated with bacteria and it is recommended that you stay off work or school for a minimum of 48 hours as this is when you are the most infectious.
You are likely to have food poisoning if:
- You feel sick (nausea)
- You are being sick (vomiting)
- You are experiencing diarrhoea
- You have stomach cramps and or stomach pain
- You have a high temperature (38C or above)
- You have aches and chills or are feeling generally unwell
- You lack energy and feel weak
- You have a loss of appetite
When to see an expert at Ahmeys
If you have been vomiting for more than two days and have had diarrhoea for more than seven days, you or your child may be at risk of becoming dehydrated or becoming more severely unwell.
If your symptoms are severe, have not begun to improve after a few days or you are in an ‘at risk’ category (see below), then call to speak urgently to one of our experts.
Call to make an urgent appointment with Ahmeys if:
- You or your child has had diarrhoea for more than seven days
- You are worried about a baby under 12 months
- Your child stops breast or bottle-feeding
- Your child under five years has signs of dehydration (fewer wet nappies, seem drowsy, breath fast, have few or no tears when they cry, have a sunken fontanelle (soft spot on their head that sinks inwards), have a dry mouth, dark-yellow or strong-smelling urine or cold and blotchy-looking feet and hands)
- You or your child (over five years) still have signs of dehydration after using oral rehydration sachets
- You or your child cannot keep fluid down
- You or your child have bloody diarrhoea or rectal bleeding
- You are experiencing weight loss
- Have a moderate or continuous stomach ache
- Your stool is dark or black (this could indicate bleeding in the stomach)
- You are in an ‘at risk’ category: pregnant, over 60, the patient is a baby or young child, you have a long-term condition such as IBS, heart valve disease, kidney disease or diabetes, or you have a weak immune system
Check with Ahmeys before going in. It may be possible to speak to an expert over the phone to avoid spreading any infection or bacteria you may have.
When to seek emergency care?
- If you have a sudden, severe headache or stomach ache (pain so bad that it is hard to think, talk, sleep or move)
- If you have been vomiting for more than two days. Especially if you are vomiting blood or vomit that looks like ground coffee or is bright green or yellow
- If you might have swallowed something poisonous
- If you are also experiencing other symptoms of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) such as swelling of the throat and tongue, facial swelling, additional skin reactions, including itching, hives and pale or flushed skin, difficulty breathing, a weak, rapid pulse, dizziness, fainting or loss of consciousness
- If you have a stiff neck and pain when looking at bright lights
If you are able to recognise from the list of symptoms that you have food poisoning, you can usually treat it at home by making sure you drink enough fluids, rest and avoid school or work for at least two days.
If you are concerned that your symptoms are severe or have lasted for a long time, call Ahmeys to book an appointment with one of our experts to discuss your symptoms and potential treatments.
An expert at Ahmeys will review your symptoms and potentially prescribe you an oral rehydration solution (also available over the counter), antibiotics, send off a stool sample for analysis, or even refer you to the hospital for observation.
Once one of our experts has assessed you, they will discuss treatment options with you. Treatments may include:
- An oral rehydration solution if you or your child are particularly at risk of dehydration
- Potentially prescribe antibiotics if your diarrhoea has been confirmed to have a bacterial cause
- Send off a stool sample for analysis
- Hospital referral for IV rehydration in cases of extreme dehydration
- Hospital referral for extreme and potentially life-threatening symptoms
How to manage your symptoms?
- Diarrhoea and vomiting caused by food poising can spread easily. If possible, stay off work and keep your child off school until you have not had diarrhoea for at least two days
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration – small, frequent sips of water
- Eat solid food as soon as you feel able to
- If you are breast or bottle feeding your baby and they have diarrhoea, try to feed them as normal
- Remember to wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap, especially after using the toilet and before eating and preparing food
- If travelling abroad, practice good food and water hygiene and avoid undercooked food or any food or drink that has been prepared or contains unsafe tap water
- If you are in discomfort, take paracetamol – check the leaflet before giving it to your child
- Do not have or give your child fruit juice or fizzy drinks as they can make diarrhoea worse
- Do not give children under the age of 12 medicine to stop diarrhoea
- Do not give aspirin to children under the age of 16
How to avoid infection?
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
- Wash any clothing or bedding with faecal matter or vomit on in a separate, hot wash
- Clean toilet seats, taps, surfaces and flush handles every day
- If possible, do not prepare food for other people
- Do not share flannels, cutlery, drinks, food, towels or utensils with other people
- Wait for two weeks after the symptoms have stopped to use the swimming pool