Food poisoning occurs when you eat food that is contaminated with bacteria or other toxins, or that is naturally toxic. Painful symptoms usually subside on their own after a few days, when the source of the poison has been removed from your body, but there are actions you can take to temporarily make yourself more comfortable and speed up your recovery. In severe cases, you may need to seek medical help.
Part 1 of 3: Deciding What to Do
Step 1. Find out what causes food poisoning
Before treating the symptoms of food poisoning, it's important to find out what's causing it. Think back to the food you ate in the last 4 to 36 hours. Are you trying something new? Did you eat something that tasted a little weird? Do you share food with friends or family members who are also experiencing these symptoms? Here are the foods that most often cause food poisoning:
- Food that has been contaminated by e-coli, salmonella, and other types of bacteria. Bacteria usually die when food is properly cooked and handled, so this type of food poisoning is usually caused by undercooked meat or food left at room temperature without being refrigerated.
- Poisonous fish, such as pufferfish, are also a common cause of food poisoning. Pufferfish should not be consumed unless it is processed by staff at a restaurant certified to handle it.
- Poisonous wild mushrooms, which can look similar to healthy mushrooms, can also cause food poisoning.
Step 2. Decide if first aid from medical personnel is necessary
Food poisoning caused by bacteria, especially when it strikes an unwell person, can usually be treated at home. However, depending on the cause of food poisoning and the age of the patient, you may need to seek medical attention immediately, before treating the symptoms of food poisoning. Call your doctor if any of the following situations occur:
- People with food poisoning who eat poisonous fish or mushrooms.
- Sufferers of food poisoning are infants or small children.
- The patient with food poisoning is pregnant.
- Patients with food poisoning are more than 65 years old.
- People with food poisoning experience severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, dizziness or fainting, or vomiting blood.
Part 2 of 3: Relieves Symptoms of Food Poisoning
Step 1. Limit solid foods
Food poisoning causes vomiting and diarrhea, the body's natural function to remove toxins from the body. Eating more solid foods will cause the sufferer to vomit and have more diarrhea, so the best thing to do is to avoid eating large/whole meals until the sufferer feels better.
- That doesn't mean you have to avoid foods that cause you poisoning. If you're unsure what food is causing you poisoning, just eat something that hasn't been served right before you've eaten the food that caused the poisoning.
- If you're tired of eating broth and soup all day, eat plain foods that won't upset your stomach, such as bananas, plain white rice or dry toast.
Step 2. Drink plenty of fluids
Vomiting and diarrhea cause the body to lose fluids, so it is important to drink plenty of water and other fluids to avoid dehydration. Adults should aim to drink at least 16 glasses of water per day.
- Herbal teas, especially mint tea, have stomach-soothing properties. Try drinking a few cups of peppermint tea to stay hydrated and ease your nausea.
- Ginger drinks and lemon or lime soda can also help with the rehydration process, and carbonated drinks help soothe your stomach.
- Avoid coffee, alcohol and other fluids that dehydrate the body.
Step 3. Replace the lost electrolyte
If you've lost a lot of nutrients due to dehydration, you can buy electrolyte solutions from the pharmacy to replace them. Gatorade or Pedialyte are also good choices.
Step 4. Get plenty of rest
You may feel weak and lethargic after experiencing symptoms of food poisoning. Get as much sleep as you need to help your body recover faster.
Step 5. Avoid drugs
Over-the-counter diarrhea and vomiting prevention medications can actually slow your recovery by blocking the body's natural functions that excrete the cause of your food poisoning.
Part 3 of 3: Preventing Food Poisoning
Step 1. Wash your hands, cutlery and kitchen surfaces
Food poisoning is often caused by bacteria transferring to food through dirty hands, cutlery, cutting boards, utensils or table surfaces. Take the following steps to prevent food poisoning from occurring:
- Wash your hands with warm soapy water before preparing food.
- Wash dishes and utensils in warm soapy water after use.
- Use the cleaner to clean countertops, dining tables, cutting boards and other kitchen surfaces after preparing food, especially when preparing raw meat.
Step 2. Store food properly
Make sure raw foods, such as raw chicken or steak, are kept separate from foods that don't need to be cooked, to prevent cross-contamination. All meat and dairy products should be refrigerated as soon as you bring them home from the market.
Step 3. Cook the meat thoroughly
Cooking meat to an internal temperature that kills bacteria in the meat can prevent food poisoning caused by bacteria. Make sure you know what temperature you have to reach to cook the meat, and use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the meat before you finish cooking it.
- Chicken and other poultry should be cooked at 73.9 degrees Celsius.
- Beef must be cooked at 71.1 degrees Celsius.
- Beef steak and roast beef should be cooked at 62.8 degrees Celsius.
- Pork should be cooked at 71.1 degrees Celsius.
- Fish should be cooked at 62.8 degrees Celsius.
Step 4. Don't eat wild mushrooms
Hunting for wild mushrooms to eat has become a trend in recent years, but unless you are looking for mushrooms under the guidance of an expert, eating freshly picked mushrooms should be avoided. Even scientists have difficulty distinguishing some species of edible and poisonous mushrooms without the help of biological tests.
- Don't take the risk of eating food that has been in your refrigerator for some time. When in doubt, throw the food away!
- Suck on ice cubes or frozen juice to help relieve nausea and keep yourself hydrated.