Other gastrointestinal health

How Long Does Food Poisoning Last

Nidhi Nangia
By Nidhi Nangia. Updated: June 17, 2020
How Long Does Food Poisoning Last

Food poisoning is a common condition that happens when you ingest drink or food that is contaminated with parasites, viruses or bacteria. When you have food poisoning, you suffer the uneasy symptoms from your digestive system, including vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and abdominal cramping. If you have been affected with food poisoning and have been experiencing these symptoms, the only thing you can think about it when you will feel better. In most cases, symptoms get better on their own, but sometimes, you may need to seek medical attention. Read this oneHOWTO article to find out how long does food poisoning last. We'll also provide related information to make sure you don't find yourself in this predicament again.

You may also be interested in: What to Do When You Have Food Poisoning
  1. Symptoms of Food Poisoning
  2. How Long The Symptoms Last
  3. How to Prevent Food Poisoning

Symptoms of Food Poisoning

Despite huge advancements in the field of food safety and production, it is still common to have food poisoning. Food may get contaminated during different stages of production, including processing, storage, transportation, preparation and cooking. Symptoms may begin hours, or even days after eating the contaminated food or drinking the contaminated beverage. The timing largely depends on the underlying cause and the amount of contaminated food you consumed. Symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness

Food poisoning also affects people who have already compromised immunity to a great extent. One family may consume the same food, but only one person may have food poisoning after that. This is because all other family members were healthy, while that one person had deteriorated immunity. Some people may be more sensitive to specific toxins or germs as well, because of which they are the ones who suffer from food poisoning most of the times.

How Long The Symptoms Last

Now that you have the basics on food poisoning, you may be wondering when you will be back to health. The short answer is ‘it depends’. There are different types and causes of food poisoning, and how long your symptoms last depends on them:

  • Norovirus: It is a contagious virus present in water and food contaminated with germs and feces. It may spread when you come in contact with an infected surface or individual. It is responsible for a large percentage of food borne illnesses and some cases require hospitalization. Most of the outbreaks take place in restaurants and other such food service settings, where individuals with infection handle raw food items. Norovirus related food poisoning can be treated only with complete rest, proper hydration and mineral and vitamin supplementation. Most symptoms start after 12 to 48 hours of eating the contaminated food and stop after 3-4 days. In severe cases, norovirus may lead to severe dehydration. If left untreated, it may lead to even death.
  • Hepatitis A: People who catch this infection usually get it by consuming contaminated water or food, shellfish or fish from contaminated waters. Symptoms include jaundice, tiredness, fever and abdominal pain. The infection lasts for around 15 to 50 days, depending on the severity of your infection and how fast medical treatment was sought.
  • Nontyphoidal Salmonella: Salmonella causes diarrhea with infection and spreads through contaminated water and food. Salmonella causes bacterial diarrhea and is one of the major causes of deaths due to food poisoning. This bacterium spreads through water and food contaminated with feces. Contact with an infected animal or individual may also cause this infection. In addition to infectious diarrhea, salmonella also causes abdominal pain and fever. Symptoms of the infection start showing within 6 to 72 hours of consuming the contaminated food and it is usually diagnosed using a fecal sample. Treatment methods of rest and hydration, and the symptoms subside within 4 to 7 days. Antimicrobial medicines may be given to children, elderly people and other patients with weak immunity.
  • Listeria: Listeria commonly affects people who consume unpasteurized milk, soft cheese and cured meats. Symptoms include fever, flu, pain and headache. Pregnant women who receive this infection have increased chances of stillbirth and miscarriage. The symptoms may subside within 2 days, or may even take 3 months. It is one of the major reasons for many of the foods recommended not to eat during pregnancy.
  • Clostridium perfringens: This is a kind of bacteria that causes infection in the intestines of animals and humans. It does not spread through contact and is commonly present in poultry products and raw meat. It usually spreads through pre-cooked foods that are kept warm for quick serving. Symptoms start after 8 to 12 hours of being exposed to the bacteria. Symptoms include abdominal pain and diarrhea, but is not accompanied with vomiting and fever. Its symptoms begin suddenly and subside within a day. Treatment includes hydration and rest, but intravenous fluids and electrolyte replacement may also be required in some cases.
  • Campylobacter species: This is the leading cause of bacterial gastroenteritis, which leads to inflammation in the small intestines and stomach. They are present in warm-blooded animals’ intestines like poultry and cattle. It spreads through poultry products and meat, but also through direct contact with an infected animal. Infection occurs after 1 to 10 days of consumption and symptoms should improve in 3 to 6 days. Treatment includes rest and hydration, while people with weakened immunity may need medical attention.
  • Parasites: Parasites may get transmitted through undercooked fish or meat and raw vegetables contaminated with fecal matter. Some of the most common parasites include protozoa, roundworms and tapeworms. Symptoms include gastrointestinal problems, skin lesions, nerve problems and cough. Symptoms start showing within 2 days of exposure, and last for 3-4 days.
  • Listeria monocytogenes: Although this is a rare form of food-borne illness, it is often serious and requires hospitalization. It mostly affects pregnant women, new born babies, elderly people and patients with weakened immunity. Initial signs of this infection are similar to diarrhea, and often occur after 1-4 hours of exposure. If left untreated, it can lead to other serious symptoms like muscle pain and ache, joint and muscle stiffness, loss of balance, convulsions and confusion. If it affects a pregnant woman, it may reach the fetus through placenta and cause stillbirth. Fecal samples are used to diagnose this infection, and it is treated with antibiotics. The symptoms last only after proper medical treatment.
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli): E. coli bacterium is naturally present in your intestines, but some of their species may cause infections as well as help digestion. It spreads through water or food contaminated with feces or through direct contact with an infected individual. In addition to other symptoms, it also causes bloody diarrhea, urinary tract infection and respiration problem. Symptoms start appearing within 3-4 days, and improve after 5-7 days.
How Long Does Food Poisoning Last - How Long The Symptoms Last

How to Prevent Food Poisoning

Here are a few precautionary measures you should take in order to prevent food poisoning:

  • Wash hands with water and soap before and after touching food.
  • Wash hands after using the toilet, touching ill people or in an area with high contamination risk.
  • Wash silverware, dinnerware, cutting boards and counter tops with antibacterial detergent.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables before cooking or consuming.
  • Never keep uncooked fish, poultry and meat with other foods.
  • Use separate knives and cutting boards for poultry, meat, eggs and seafood.
  • After marinating poultry or meat, don’t use the marinade without boiling it first.
  • Bacteria quickly multiply between 40° to 140°F. Always keep food which requires refrigeration below 40 ºF/4 ºC.
  • FDA has recommended a minimum temperature to cook poultry, fish and meat. You should use a meat thermometer while cooking them.
  • Perishable food should be frozen or refrigerated within 2 hours.
  • Always thaw frozen food properly before use. You can do this in the microwave, refrigerator or by using cold water.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to How Long Does Food Poisoning Last, we recommend you visit our Diseases & secondary effects category.

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