Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating contaminated food. It’s not usually serious and most people get better within a few days without treatment.
In most cases of food poisoning, the food is contaminated by bacteria, such as salmonella or Escherichia coli (E. coli), or a virus, such as the norovirus.
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms of food poisoning usually begin within one to two days of eating contaminated food, although they may start at any point between a few hours and several weeks later.
The main symptoms include:
- feeling sick (nausea)
- diarrhoea, which may contain blood or mucus
- stomach cramps and abdominal pain
- a lack of energy and weakness
- loss of appetite
- a high temperature (fever)
- aching muscles
In most cases, these symptoms will pass in a few days and you will make a full recovery.
What to do
Most people with food poisoning recover at home and don’t need any specific treatment, although there are some situations where you should see your doctor
Until you feel better, you should rest and drink fluids to prevent dehydration. Try to drink plenty of water, even if you can only sip it.
Eat when you feel up to it, but try small, light meals at first and stick to bland foods – such as toast, crackers, bananas and rice – until you begin to feel better.
Oral rehydration solutions (ORS), which are available from pharmacies, are recommended for more vulnerable people, such as the elderly and those with another health condition.