Food Poisoning Treatment

  • Treatment

    See your doctor if you have bloody diarrhea or develop a headache, stiff neck, or fever along with typical food poisoning symptoms. Likewise, seek help if you have a rapid heart rate, dizziness, faintness, tingling in your arms and legs, or blurred vision. Seek attention if you are having diarrhea or vomiting and you are unable to hold down liquids—you can easily become dehydrated. If you are caring for a baby, a toddler, or an elderly person with symptoms of food poisoning, seek attention sooner.

    Drink as many fluids as possible to keep yourself hydrated. Drink 6 to 8 ounces of clear fluids hourly throughout the day if you can. Even if you are vomiting, try to stay hydrated by taking small sips. Water, tea with sugar, and sports drinks that contain electrolytes are good choices. If you can’t keep anything down, suck on ice until you get to the emergency room.

    Gradually resume eating.

    • Don’t eat solid food until diarrhea has passed
    • Once your diarrhea has stopped, try eating small amounts of foods that are easy on the stomach like oatmeal, bananas, apple sauce, and dry toast
    • Avoid milk and other dairy products for a few days to allow the enzymes needed to digest the sugar in milk to be replenished

    Your doctor is the best source of information on the drug treatment choices available to you.

    If you are severely dehydrated, you may need to have your fluids replaced intravenously. If you're unable to take fluids by mouth because of nausea, you may need intravenous fluid replacement.

    Some cases of E. coli poisoning may require a blood transfusion and kidney dialysis in an intensive care unit.

    The herb milk thistle has a history of use as an antidote for chemical poisoning caused by the deathcap mushroom. The mushroom species Amanita phalloides causes severe poisoning and death in a third of people. Given intravenously soon after the mushroom has been eaten, the active ingredient in milk thistle (silymarin) can lessen the toxic effects. Given within 24 hours, silymarin is life-saving and can reduce liver damage. Animal studies suggest milk thistle extracts might also protect against other potentially poisonous substances such as acetaminophen (Tylenol). In Europe, milk thistle extracts are sometimes given to prevent the toxic effects of drugs known to cause liver problems.

    Pregnant women, infants, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems run the greatest risk of complications from food poisoning. Between 2% and 7% of E. coli food poisonings result in hemolytic uremic syndrome, most often in children under five years of age and in older people. It's caused when the bacteria in the digestive system make toxins that enter the bloodstream and destroy red blood cells. The damaged red blood cells clog the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, making it harder for the kidneys to remove wastes and extra fluid from the blood. This can eventually lead to kidney failure. Pregnant women who come down with Listeria infections sometimes go into premature labor or have a child infected with the illness. Stillbirth is another possible outcome. A fraction of those who are poisoned by Salmonella go on to develop joint pain that can lead to chronic arthritis. And in anyone, botulism is very serious. The illness can cause paralysis, respiratory failure, and even death.

    Mild food poisoning usually clears up on its own within a few days. You may need to see a doctor if you become severely dehydrated or if the infection spreads from the intestines.

    In cases where complications have arisen, physician care is needed.

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