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Treatment for Food Poisoning | NIDDK

How can I treat food poisoning?

In most cases, people with food poisoning get better on their own without medical treatment. You can treat food poisoning by replacing lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration. In some cases, over-the-counter medicines may help relieve your symptoms.

When you have food poisoning, you may vomit after you eat or lose your appetite for a short time. When your appetite returns, you can most often go back to eating your normal diet, even if you still have diarrhea. Find tips on what to eat when you have food poisoning.

If your child has symptoms of food poisoning, such as vomiting or diarrhea, don’t hesitate to call a doctor for advice.

Replace lost fluids and electrolytes

When you have food poisoning, you need to replace lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration or treat mild dehydration. You should drink plenty of liquids. If vomiting is a problem, try sipping small amounts of clear liquids. Replacing lost fluids and electrolytes is the most important treatment for food poisoning.

Adults. Most adults with food poisoning can replace fluids and electrolytes with liquids such as

  • water
  • fruit juices with water added to dilute the juice
  • sports drinks
  • broths

Eating saltine crackers can also help replace electrolytes.

Older adults, adults with a weakened immune system, and adults with severe diarrhea or symptoms of dehydration should drink oral rehydration solutions, such as Pedialyte, Naturalyte, Infalyte, and CeraLyte. Oral rehydration solutions are liquids that contain glucose and electrolytes.

Children. If your child has food poisoning, you should give your child an oral rehydration solution—such as Pedialyte, Naturalyte, Infalyte, and CeraLyte—as directed. Talk with a doctor about giving these solutions to your infant. Infants should drink breast milk or formula as usual.

Over-the-counter medicines

In some cases, adults can take over-the-counter medicines such as loperamide (Imodium) and bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate) to treat diarrhea caused by food poisoning.

These medicines can be dangerous for infants and children. Talk with a doctor before giving your child an over-the-counter medicine.

If you have bloody diarrhea or fever—signs of infections with bacteria or parasites—don’t use over-the-counter medicines to treat diarrhea. See a doctor for treatment.

How do doctors treat food poisoning?

To treat food poisoning caused by bacteria or parasites, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or medicines that target parasites, in addition to rehydration solutions.

In some cases, doctors may recommend probiotics. Probiotics are live microbes, most often bacteria, that may be similar to microbes you normally have in your digestive tract. Studies suggest that some probiotics may help shorten a bout of diarrhea. Researchers are still studying the use of probiotics to treat food poisoning. For safety reasons, talk with your doctor before using probiotics or any other complementary or alternative medicines or practices. This is especially important when children, older adults, or those with weak immune systems have diarrhea.

Doctors may need to treat people with life-threatening symptoms and complications—such as severe dehydration, hemolytic uremic syndrome, or paralysis—in a hospital.

How can I prevent food poisoning?

You can prevent some food poisoning by properly storing, cooking, cleaning, and handling foods. For example,

  • keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from other foods
  • prepare salads and refrigerate them before handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs
  • promptly refrigerate or freeze foods that can spoil
  • wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling food
  • wash fruits and vegetables before eating, cutting, or cooking
  • cook foods long enough and at high enough temperatures to kill harmful microbes
  • wash utensils and surfaces after each use
  • don’t eat foods that can spoil that have been sitting out for more than 2 hours, or in temperatures over 90 degrees, for more than 1 hour

Cook foods long enough and at high enough temperatures to kill harmful microbes.

Food safety is especially important for people who are more likely to get food poisoning and related complications, including

  • infants and children
  • pregnant women and their fetuses
  • older adults
  • people with weak immune systems

Find tips on food safety for people in these groups.

Food recalls

You can help prevent food poisoning by watching for food recalls. Companies recall foods—take foods off the market—if they find out that the foods could make people sick. If you learn that a food was recalled because it could cause food poisoning, check to see if you have the food. If you do, make sure no one eats it. You can return the food to the store or dispose of it.

Learn more about recently recalled foods.

Travelers’ diarrhea

To reduce your chances of getting travelers’ diarrhea when traveling to developing countries, avoid eating or drinking the following

  • unbottled or untreated water. Also avoid brushing your teeth with unbottled or untreated water. Tap, well, lake, or river water may contain microbes.
  • ice, foods, and drinks prepared with untreated tap or well water.
  • unpasteurized juice, milk, and milk products like cheese or yogurt. Pasteurization kills harmful microbes.
  • food or drinks from street vendors.
  • warm food that was not served hot.
  • raw or undercooked meat, fish, or shellfish.
  • raw vegetables and fruits that you have not washed in clean water or peeled yourself.

If you are worried about travelers’ diarrhea, talk with your doctor before traveling. Your doctor may recommend ways that you can treat local water to kill or remove harmful microbes. Your doctor may also recommend that you bring antibiotics with you in case you get diarrhea during your trip. Early treatment with antibiotics can shorten a case of travelers’ diarrhea. Doctors may prescribe an antibiotic such as rifaximin (Xifaxan) or rifamycin (Aemcolo) to treat adults with travelers’ diarrhea caused by certain strains of Escherichia coli (E. coli) who do not have fever or blood in the stool. For severe travelers’ diarrhea, your doctor may prescribe azithromycin (Zithromax, Zmax) or ciprofloxacin (Cipro).

Doctors may advise some people—especially people with weakened immune systems—to take antibiotics before and during a trip to help prevent travelers’ diarrhea.

Diet for Diarrhea Only (Infant/Toddler)

The main goal while treating diarrhea is to prevent dehydration. This is the loss of too much water and minerals from the body. When this occurs, body fluids must be replaced. This is done by giving your child small amounts of liquids often. You can also give oral rehydration solution. Oral rehydration solution is available at pharmacies and most grocery stores. Don’t use sports drinks—they are not good enough. In general, for mild diarrhea, the child can continue to eat.


If your baby is breastfed:

  • Keep breastfeeding. Feed your child more often than usual.

  • If diarrhea is severe, give oral rehydration solution between feedings.

  • As diarrhea decreases, stop giving oral rehydration solution and resume your normal breastfeeding schedule.

If your baby is bottle-fed:

  • Give small, frequent amounts of fluid. An ounce or two (30 to 60 mL) every 30 minutes may improve symptoms. Start with 1 teaspoon (5 mL) every 5 minutes and increase gradually as tolerated.

  • Give full-strength formula or milk. If diarrhea is severe, give oral rehydration solution between feedings.

  • If giving milk and the diarrhea is not getting better, stop giving milk. In some cases, milk can make diarrhea worse. Try soy or rice formula.

  • Don’t give apple juice, soda, or other sweetened drinks. Drinks with sugar can make diarrhea worse. Sports drinks are not the same as oral rehydration solutions. Sports drinks have too much sugar and not enough electrolytes to correct dehydration.

  • If your child is doing well after 24 hours, resume a regular diet and feeding schedule.

  • If your child starts doing worse with food, go back to clear liquids.

If your child is on solid food:

  • Keep in mind that liquids are more important than food right now. Don’t be in a rush to give food.

  • Don’t force your child to eat, especially if he or she is having stomach pain and cramping.

  • Don’t feed your child large amounts at a time, even if he or she is hungry. This can make your child feel worse. You can give your child more food over time if he or she can tolerate it.

  • If you are giving milk to your child and the diarrhea is not going away, stop the milk. In some cases, milk can make diarrhea worse. If that happens, use oral rehydration solution instead.

  • If diarrhea is severe, give oral rehydration solution between feedings.

  • If your child is doing well after 24 hours, try giving solid foods. These can include cereal, oatmeal, bread, noodles, mashed carrots, mashed bananas, mashed potatoes, applesauce, dry toast, crackers, soups with rice noodles, and cooked vegetables.

  • Don’t feed your child high fat foods.

  • Don’t feed your child high sugar foods including fruit juice and sodas.

  • For babies over 4 months, as they feel better, you may give cereal, mashed potatoes, applesauce, mashed bananas, or strained carrots during this time. Babies over 1 year may add crackers, white bread, rice, and other starches.

  • If your child starts doing worse with food, go back to clear liquids.

  • You can resume your child’s normal diet over time as he or she feels better. If at the diarrhea or cramping gets worse again, go back to a simple diet or clear liquids.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider, or as advised. If a stool sample was taken or cultures were done, call the healthcare provider for the results as instructed.

Call 911

Call 911 if your child has any of these symptoms:

When to seek medical advice

Call your child’s healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Belly pain that gets worse

  • Constant lower right belly pain

  • Repeated vomiting after the first two hours on liquids

  • Occasional vomiting for more than 24 hours

  • Continued severe diarrhea for more than 24 hours

  • Blood in stool

  • Refusal to drink or feed

  • Dark urine or no urine, or dry diapers, for 4 to 6 hours in an infant or toddler, or 6 to 8 hours in an older child, no tears when crying, sunken eyes, or dry mouth

  • Fussiness or crying that cannot be soothed

  • Unusual drowsiness

  • New rash

  • More than 8 diarrhea stools within 8 hours

  • Diarrhea lasts more than one week on antibiotics

  • Fever (see Children and fever, below)

Fever and children

Always use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Never use a mercury thermometer.

For infants and toddlers, be sure to use a rectal thermometer correctly. A rectal thermometer may accidentally poke a hole in (perforate) the rectum. It may also pass on germs from the stool. Always follow the product maker’s directions for proper use. If you don’t feel comfortable taking a rectal temperature, use another method. When you talk to your child’s healthcare provider, tell him or her which method you used to take your child’s temperature.

Here are guidelines for fever temperature. Ear temperatures aren’t accurate before 6 months of age. Don’t take an oral temperature until your child is at least 4 years old.

Infant under 3 months old:

  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead (temporal artery) temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 99°F (37.2°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child age 3 to 36 months:

  • Rectal, forehead (temporal artery), or ear temperature of 102°F (38. 9°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child of any age:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old. Or a fever that lasts for 3 days in a child 2 years or older.

Opt For These Simple And Effective Ways to Get Rid of The Problem

Are you experiencing bloating, nausea, abdominal pain, and watery stool? If yes, you have diarrhea. It is a common health problem that occurs due to infection in the gastrointestinal tract. Common bacteria, viruses, and even parasitic organism can cause diarrhea. Though it is short-lived and lasts only for approximately a few days, if it persists for longer than that, there is something big and serious going on with your body and that calls for a doctor’s attention. Also Read – Coronavirus Symptoms in India: Diarrhea, Headache And Vomiting Could Also be Signs of Deadly COVID-19

Diarrhea is characterised by loose stools, abdominal cramp, fever, mucus in stool, bloating etc. It can cause dehydration and weaken your immune system. Though certain antibiotics and other medications can help you get rid of the problem, you can also take the help of some simple home remedies that are quite effective and safe to use. Read further to know about them. Also Read – Let’s immunise, save every child from diarrhea: Shabana Azmi

Hydrate Yourself

Diarrhea can dehydrate your body and can make you weak. So, it is extremely significant to keep drinking water and fluid containing electrolyte to keep your body’s water level and immunity optimum. Also, avoid drinking caffeine-containing drinks, alcohol, hot drinks, and carbonated beverages.

Eat Probiotic-Rich Food

Probiotics are good for your intestinal tract and gut environment. These microorganisms are present in food items like yogurt, pickles, green olives, kimchi, kefir, miso, natto etc. Probiotics protect your digestive system from any infection and provides relief from diarrhea.

Follow a Recovery Diet

During the first 24 hours of getting diarrhea, you should prefer being on a liquid diet. When you have diarrhea, your digestive system becomes weak and fails to digest everything. In this scenario, you should opt for light food items. Also, have frequent but small meals. You can have fruits, foods rich in potassium including potatoes and spinach juice, soft and cooked vegetables etc. Do not forget to add protein-rich food in your diet. These items will help you recover fast.

Food Poisoning in Adults – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

What is food poisoning?

Food poisoning means getting sick from eating food with poisonous stuff in it. But not usually the kind of poisons used by the killer in an Agatha Christie story. Usually the poison comes from some type of germ.

Many types of germs can cause food poisoning, including bacteria, viruses and parasites. Common culprits include:

You are more likely to pick up food poisoning if you are not careful about how you store and handle food, and about what and where you eat or drink.

What are the symptoms of food poisoning?

  • The main symptom is diarrhoea, often with being sick (vomiting) as well. Diarrhoea is defined as “loose or watery stools (faeces), usually at least three times in 24 hours”. Blood or mucus can appear in the stools with some infections.
  • Crampy pains in your tummy (abdomen) are common. Pains may ease for a while each time you pass some diarrhoea.
  • You may feel hot one minute and cold and shivery the next, and achy all over. These are symptoms of a high temperature (fever) which sometimes develops along with the tummy symptoms.

If vomiting occurs, it often lasts only a day or so but sometimes longer. Diarrhoea often continues after the vomiting stops and commonly lasts for several days or more. Slightly loose stools may persist for a week or so further before a normal pattern returns. Sometimes the symptoms last longer.

The vomiting and diarrhoea usually start hours or a very few days after eating the infected food. Afterwards, you often feel drained and washed out for a few days, while you regain your appetite and ‘oomph’.

Symptoms of lack of fluid in the body

Diarrhoea and vomiting may cause lack of fluid in the body (dehydration). Consult a doctor quickly if you suspect you are becoming dehydrated. Mild dehydration is common and is usually easily reversed by drinking lots of fluids. Severe dehydration can be fatal unless quickly treated because the organs of your body need a certain amount of fluid to function.

Symptoms of dehydration in adults include:

  • Tiredness.
  • Dizziness or light-headedness.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Sunken eyes.
  • Passing less urine.
  • A dry mouth and tongue.
  • Weakness.
  • Becoming irritable.

Symptoms of severe dehydration in adults include:

  • Profound loss of energy or enthusiasm (apathy).
  • Weakness.
  • Confusion.
  • A fast heart rate.
  • Producing very little urine.
  • Coma – may occur.

Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and immediate medical attention is needed.

Dehydration in adults is more likely to occur in:

  • Elderly or frail people.
  • Pregnant women.
  • People with severe diarrhoea and vomiting. In particular, if you are not able to replace the fluid lost with enough drinks.

When do I need to seek medical advice?

You should seek medical advice if:

  • You think that you are becoming dehydrated.
  • You are vomiting a lot and can’t keep fluids down at all.
  • You have blood in your stools (poo) or you vomit up blood.
  • You have severe tummy pain.
  • You have severe symptoms, or if you feel that your condition is becoming worse.
  • You have a high temperature (fever), which doesn’t settle with medicines such as paracetamol, or which hangs about for three days or more.
  • Your symptoms are not settling; for example, vomiting for more than 1-2 days, or diarrhoea that does not start to settle after 3-4 days.
  • Your infection was caught abroad.
  • You are elderly or have an underlying health problem such as diabetes, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney disease.
  • You have a weakened immune system because of, for example, chemotherapy treatment, long-term steroid treatment, HIV infection.
  • You are pregnant.
  • You suspect that you may have contracted food poisoning from eating restaurant or takeaway food.
  • There are any other symptoms that you are concerned about.

What are the causes of food poisoning?

Food poisoning is common and most of us will recognise the scenario. You ate something that looked (or smelled) a little dodgy, or you were abroad in a country where it isn’t safe to drink the water, and you had a salad. Washed in the water you know you shouldn’t drink. A few hours later you get tummy ache, and you are being sick (vomiting) and running backwards and forwards to the toilet. There are pet names for it in different parts of the world: Delhi belly, Kathmandu quickstep, Montezuma’s revenge, Karachi crouch. But you can pick it up pretty much anywhere, including your own home.

Campylobacter is the most common germ (bacterium) that causes food poisoning in the UK. Other germs (bacteria) that can cause food poisoning include:

Some germs (viruses), such as norovirus or rotavirus, can contaminate food and cause food poisoning.

These are another type of microbe. Parasites are living things (organisms) that live within, or on, another organism. Examples include cryptosporidium, Entamoeba histolytica and giardia parasites. Food poisoning caused by parasites is more common in the developing world.

In the UK, a common cause of food poisoning is Toxoplasma gondii. This is a parasite that lives in the bowels of a number of animals, including cats. Food poisoning can occur if food or water is contaminated with the stools (faeces) of infected cats, or if raw or undercooked meat from another animal carrying the parasite is eaten. The infection is known as toxoplasmosis. Symptoms of this type of food poisoning include swollen lymph glands and sometimes a skin rash.

Toxins and chemicals
Poisons (toxins) produced by bacteria can also contaminate food, as well as the bacteria themselves. For example, the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus can contaminate ice cream and its toxins can lead to food poisoning. The bacterium Bacillus cereus can contaminate rice. If contaminated rice is reheated and eaten, the toxins produced can lead to food poisoning.

Certain types of fish (including shark, marlin, swordfish and tuna) contain high levels of the chemical mercury. Eating these types of fish is not normally a problem for most people – it does not cause gastroenteritis or food poisoning. But pregnant women are advised to avoid eating shark, marlin and swordfish and to limit tuna. This is because a high level of mercury can damage the developing nervous system of an unborn baby.

Oily fish may be contaminated by chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls. Again, this does not usually cause a problem or food poisoning for most people. However, you should limit the amount of oily fish you eat in pregnancy because of possible effects of these chemicals on a developing baby. Public Health England recommends no more than two portions of oily fish a week.

Note: this is a general leaflet about food poisoning. There are separate leaflets that give more details about some of the different microbes that cause food poisoning.

How does food become contaminated?

Contamination of food can occur because of problems in food production, storage or cooking. For example:

  • Not storing food correctly or at the correct temperature. For example, not refrigerating food. This is particularly a problem for meat and dairy products.
  • Inadequate cooking of food (undercooking or not cooking to the correct temperature). Bacteria are often found in raw meat, including poultry. Adequate cooking usually kills the bacteria.
  • Contamination by someone preparing the food who has not followed food hygiene rules and has not washed their hands properly.
  • Contamination from other foods (cross-contamination). For example, not washing a board used to prepare raw meat before you cut a slice of bread using the same board. Storing raw meat in the fridge above food that is ‘ready-to-eat’ and so allowing raw meat juices to drip on to the food below.
  • Bacteria can also be present in unpasteurised milk and cheese. The pasteurisation process kills the bacteria.

How does water become contaminated?

Water can become contaminated with bacteria or other microbes usually because human or animal stools (faeces) get into the water supply. This is particularly a problem in countries with poor sanitation. In such countries, food may also be washed and prepared using contaminated water. So, for example, in countries with poor sanitation, you should always avoid:

  • Drinking tap water.
  • Having ice cubes in drinks (as the ice may have been made from tap water).
  • Brushing your teeth with tap water.
  • Eating salads (as the lettuce, tomatoes, etc, may have been washed in contaminated water).
  • Eating uncooked vegetables (as they may have been washed in contaminated water).

How is food poisoning diagnosed and do I need investigations?

Most people will recognise food poisoning from their typical symptoms. If symptoms are mild, you do not usually need to seek medical advice or receive specific medical treatment.

However, in some circumstances, you may need to seek medical advice when you have food poisoning (see below about when to seek medical advice). The doctor may ask you questions about recent travel abroad or any ways that you may have eaten or drunk contaminated food or water. The doctor will also usually check you for signs of lack of body fluid (dehydration). They may check your temperature, pulse and blood pressure. They may also examine your tummy (abdomen) to look for any tenderness.

Your doctor may ask you to collect a stool (faeces) sample. This can then be examined in the laboratory to look for the cause of the infection. A stool sample is not always needed. Your doctor is likely to suggest one in certain situations, such as:

  • If you have recently been abroad.
  • If you are very unwell.
  • If you have blood or pus in your stools.
  • If your diarrhoea is not settling after a week.
  • If you have recently been in hospital or had antibiotic treatment.
  • If you have another medical condition, particularly one which affects your immune system.
  • If the doctor is not sure you have food poisoning or a gut infection (gastroenteritis).
  • If your job involves handling food.

The reason a stool sample is not always needed is that in many cases knowing what germ you have does not make any difference to the treatment you need. Most cases of food poisoning get better on their own even before the stool test result is back.

If you are very unwell, you may need admission to hospital. If this is the case, further investigations may be needed such as blood tests, scans or a lumbar puncture. This is to look for spread of the infection to other parts of your body.

If you think your infection may have come from food at a particular restaurant or shop then inform your local Environmental Health Office. (Find them via the Food Standards Agency website’s Report a food problem page.) This is so that the business can be checked out by environmental health officers. Further actions may be taken if there is a problem with their food hygiene practices. This will hopefully help to reduce the chance that other people will get food poisoning. If your doctor suspects or confirms that you have food poisoning, they are also required by law to report this. 

What is the treatment for food poisoning?

Symptoms often settle within a few days or so as your immune system usually clears the infection. Occasionally, admission to hospital is needed if symptoms are severe, or if complications develop (see below).

The following are commonly advised until symptoms ease:

Fluids – have lots to drink

The aim is to prevent lack of body fluid (dehydration), or to treat dehydration if it has developed. (Note: if you suspect that you are dehydrated, you should contact a doctor.)

  • As a rough guide, drink at least 200 mls after each watery stool (each bout of diarrhoea).
  • This extra fluid is in addition to what you would normally drink. For example, an adult will normally drink about two litres a day but more in hot countries. The above ‘200 mls after each watery stool’ is in addition to this usual amount that you would drink.
  • If you are sick (vomit), wait 5-10 minutes and then start drinking again but more slowly. For example, a sip every 2-3 minutes but making sure that your total intake is as described above.
  • You will need to drink even more if you are dehydrated. A doctor will advise on how much to drink if you are dehydrated.

For most adults, fluids drunk to keep hydrated should mainly be water. Also, ideally, include some fruit juice and soups. It is best not to have drinks that contain a lot of sugar, such as cola or pop, as they can sometimes make diarrhoea worse.

Rehydration drinks are recommended for people who are frail, or over the age of 60, or who have underlying health problems. They are made from sachets that you can buy from pharmacies. (The sachets are also available on prescription. ) You add the contents of the sachet to water. Rehydration drinks provide a good balance of water, salts, and sugar. The small amount of sugar and salt helps the water to be absorbed better from the gut (intestines) into the body. They do not stop or reduce diarrhoea. Do not use home-made salt/sugar drinks, as the quantity of salt and sugar has to be exact.

Eat as normally as possible

It used to be advised to ‘starve’ for a while if you had food poisoning. However, now it is advised to eat small, light meals if you can. Be guided by your appetite. You may not feel like food and most adults can do without food for a few days. Eat as soon as you are able – but don’t stop drinking. If you do feel like eating, avoid fatty, spicy or heavy food at first. Plain foods such as wholemeal bread and rice are good foods to try eating first.


Antidiarrhoeal medicines are not usually necessary. Your body is doing its best to get rid of the germ for you, and you will recover more quickly if you let it do so. However, a medicine called loperamide may be advised in some situations. For example, to help you over a special event such as a wedding, or if you have difficulty reaching the toilet quickly. Loperamide works by slowing down your gut’s activity and it can reduce the number of trips that you need to make to the toilet. You can buy loperamide from pharmacies. The adult dose of loperamide is two capsules at first. This is followed by one capsule after each time you pass some diarrhoea, up to a maximum of eight capsules in 24 hours. You should not take loperamide for longer than five days.

Note: although loperamide is usually safe, there have been reports of very serious gut problems developing in some people who have taken loperamide. These problems were mainly in people who had severe inflammation of the gut. So, do not use loperamide or any other antidiarrhoeal medicine if you pass blood or mucus with the diarrhoea or if you have a high temperature (fever). Also, people with certain conditions should not take loperamide. Pregnant women should not take loperamide. Therefore, to be safe, read the leaflet that comes with the medicine.

Paracetamol or ibuprofen is useful to ease a high temperature or headache.

In some cases, your doctor may ask for a sample of the diarrhoea. This is sent to the laboratory to look for infecting germs (microbes such as bacteria, parasites, etc). A course of antibiotic medicine is sometimes needed when the germ is identified. Examples where antibiotics might be needed include:

  • If symptoms are very severe
  • If the infection is not improving as expected. For example, if symptoms are still persisting after one week.
  • If you are older than 50 with confirmed infection with salmonella.
  • If you have other medical conditions, such as problems with your heart valves, and have confirmed salmonella infection.
  • If you have blood in your diarrhoea and have confirmed shigella infection.
  • If your immune system is not working as well as normal – for example, due to chemotherapy or if you have an illness such as AIDS.
  • Infections with some specific germs, usually those acquired abroad, are usually treated with antibiotics. For example, infection with giardia, or amoebic infection.

What are the complications of food poisoning?

Complications are uncommon in the UK. Those who are older are more likely to develop complications. Complications are also more likely if you have an ongoing (chronic) condition such as diabetes or if your immune system is not working normally. (For example, if you are taking long-term steroid medication or you are having chemotherapy treatment for cancer.) Possible complications include the following:

  • Salt (electrolyte) imbalance and lack of fluid (dehydration) in your body. This is the most common complication. It occurs if the salts and water that are lost in your stools (faeces), or when you are sick (vomit), are not replaced by you drinking adequate fluids. If you can manage to drink plenty of fluids then dehydration is unlikely to occur, or is only likely to be mild, and will soon recover as you drink. Severe dehydration can lead to a drop in your blood pressure. This can cause reduced blood flow to your vital organs. If dehydration is not treated, your kidneys may be damaged. Some people who become severely dehydrated need a ‘drip’ of fluid directly into a vein. This requires admission to hospital. People who are elderly or pregnant are more at risk of dehydration.
  • Reactive complications. Rarely, other parts of your body can ‘react’ to an infection that occurs in your bowels. This can cause symptoms such as joint inflammation (arthritis), skin inflammation and eye inflammation (either conjunctivitis or uveitis).
  • Spread of infection to other parts of your body such as your bones, joints, or the meninges that surround your brain and spinal cord. This is rare. If it does occur, it is more likely if diarrhoea is caused by salmonella infection.
  • Persistent diarrhoea syndromes may rarely develop:
    • Irritable bowel syndrome is sometimes triggered by a bout of food poisoning.
    • Lactose intolerance can sometimes occur for a period of time after food poisoning. This is known as ‘secondary’ or ‘acquired’ lactose intolerance. Your bowel (intestinal) lining can be damaged by an episode of bowel infection. This leads to lack of a chemical (enzyme) called lactase that is needed to help your body digest a sugar called lactose that is in milk. Lactose intolerance leads to bloating, tummy (abdominal) pain, wind and watery stools after drinking milk. The condition gets better when the infection is over and the bowel lining heals. It is more common in children than in adults.
  • Haemolytic uraemic syndrome is another potential complication. It is rare and is usually associated with food poisoning caused by a certain type of E. coli infection. It is a serious condition where there is anaemia, a low platelet count in the blood and kidney failure. It is more common in children. If recognised and treated, most people recover well.
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome may rarely be triggered by campylobacter infection. This is a condition that affects the nerves throughout your body and limbs, causing weakness and sensory problems. See the separate leaflet called Guillain-Barré syndrome for more details.
  • Reduced effectiveness of some medicines. During an episode of food poisoning, certain medicines that you may be taking for other conditions or reasons may not be as effective. This is because the diarrhoea and/or vomiting means that reduced amounts of the medicines are taken up (absorbed) into your body. Examples of such medicines are those for epilepsy, diabetes and contraception. Speak with your doctor or practice nurse if you are unsure of what to do if you are taking other medicines and have food poisoning.

How can I prevent food poisoning?

The Foods Standards Agency in the UK has identified the ‘4 Cs’ to help prevent food poisoning:


  • Keep work surfaces and utensils clean.
  • Wash and dry your hands regularly but especially after going to the toilet, before preparing food, after handling raw food and before touching ‘ready-to-eat’ food.
  • Don’t prepare food for others if you have diarrhoea or are being sick (vomiting).
  • Cover any sores or cuts on hands with a waterproof plaster before you touch food.
  • Change dishcloths and tea towels regularly.


  • Make sure that you cook food thoroughly, especially meat. This will kill germs (bacteria). Food should be cooked right through and be piping hot in the middle.
  • If you are reheating food, it needs to be cooked right through and be piping hot in the middle.
  • Don’t reheat food more than once.


  • Food that needs to be chilled or refrigerated should be. If food is left out of the fridge, bacteria may multiply to levels that can cause food poisoning.
  • Your fridge needs to be kept between 0°C and 5°C. Also, don’t leave the door open unnecessarily.
  • Cool leftover food quickly and then refrigerate. Taking it out of the cooking pot and putting it into a shallow container can speed up the cooling process.


This occurs when bacteria pass from foods (commonly, raw foods) to other foods. It can occur if:

  • Foods touch directly.
  • One food drips on to another.
  • Your hands or utensils or equipment such as knives or chopping boards touch one food and then another.

It is important to:

  • Wash your hands after touching raw foods.
  • Separate raw and cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
  • Keep raw meat in a sealable container at the bottom of the fridge.
  • Avoid using the same surface or chopping board for preparing raw and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Make sure that knives and utensils are cleaned after preparing raw foods.

Preventing the spread of food poisoning to others

Some infections causing diarrhoea and vomiting are very easily passed on from person to person. If you have diarrhoea, the following are also recommended to prevent the spread of infection to others:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet. Ideally, use liquid soap in warm running water but any soap is better than none. Dry properly after washing.
  • Don’t share towels and flannels.
  • Don’t prepare or serve food for others.
  • Regularly clean the toilets that you use. Wipe the flush handle, toilet seat, bathroom taps, surfaces and door handles with hot water and detergent at least once a day. Keep a cloth just for cleaning the toilet (or use a disposable one each time).
  • Stay off work, college, etc, until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting.
  • Food handlers: if you work with food and develop diarrhoea or vomiting, you must immediately leave the food-handling area. For most, no other measures are needed, other than staying away from work until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting. Some special situations may arise and sometimes longer time off is needed. If in doubt, seek advice from your employer or GP.
  • If the cause of food poisoning is known to be (or suspected to be) a germ called cryptosporidium, you should not swim in swimming pools for two weeks after the last episode of diarrhoea.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Controlling Symptoms With Diet


Many people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) find that eating can cause symptoms of belly pain, constipation, diarrhea (or, sometimes, alternating periods of constipation and diarrhea), and bloating. Making some changes to your diet can provide relief.

  • Limit or eliminate foods that may make diarrhea, gas, and bloating worse. These may include caffeine, alcohol, carbonated (fizzy) drinks, milk products, foods high in sugar, fatty foods, gas-producing foods (such as beans, cabbage, and broccoli), and the artificial sweeteners sorbitol and xylitol (often used in sugarless gum and sugarless candy).
  • To reduce constipation, add fiber to your diet, drink plenty of water, and get regular exercise.
  • Keep a daily diary of what you eat and whether you have symptoms after eating.
  • Eat slowly and have meals in a quiet, relaxing environment. Don’t skip meals.

How do I control irritable bowel syndrome with diet?

You can manage your irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by limiting or eliminating foods that may bring on symptoms, particularly diarrhea, constipation, gas, and bloating. Make sure you don’t stop eating completely from any one food group without talking with a dietitian. You need to make sure you are still getting all the nutrients you need.

Tips for controlling symptoms

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Try to eat meals at about the same time each day. Take time to eat.
  • Don’t skip meals or wait too long between meals.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Be sure to drink water in addition to your other beverages. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Limit or avoid caffeine, such as from coffee and tea.
  • Avoid alcohol and fizzy (carbonated) drinks.
  • Avoid foods that may cause gas and bloating. Vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, green peppers, onions, peas, radishes, and raw potatoes may not be digested well by your body and can cause gas and bloating.
  • Limit your intake of fresh fruit and fruit juice. These are high in fructose. People who have IBS may not be able to digest fructose well. This can cause diarrhea, gas, and bloating.
  • Be careful eating some types of fiber. Fiber affects each person who has IBS in different ways.
    • If you have diarrhea, try limiting the amount of high-fiber foods you eat, especially if you have a lot of gas and bloating. This includes vegetables, fruits, whole-grain breads and pasta, high-fiber cereal, and brown rice.
    • If you have constipation, add fiber such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains in your diet each day and drink plenty of water.
  • Try the low-FODMAP diet. FODMAPs are carbohydrates that are in many types of foods. It stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. If you have digestive problems, these can make your symptoms worse. A low-FODMAP diet is when you stop eating high-FODMAP foods for about two months. Then you slowly add them back to your diet to see what foods cause digestion problems.

Avoiding foods that might be causing symptoms

Many people find that their irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms become worse after they eat. Sometimes certain foods make symptoms worse. Foods most commonly listed as causing symptoms include:

  • Cabbage.
  • Onions.
  • Peas and beans.
  • Hot spices.
  • Deep-fried and fried food.
  • Pizza.
  • Coffee.
  • Cream.
  • Smoked food.

Other types of food that can make IBS symptoms worse include:

  • A sugar found in milk, called lactose. Some people who have IBS also have lactose intolerance. This can make IBS symptoms worse when they eat or drink dairy.
  • A sugar found in vegetables and fruit, called fructose. In people who have IBS, fructose may not be digested as it should. This can cause diarrhea, gas, and bloating.
  • An artificial sweetener called sorbitol. If you have diarrhea, avoid sorbitol. It is found in sugar-free chewing gum, drinks, and other sugar-free sweets.

Keeping a food diary

Track what you eat, your emotions, activities, and your symptoms after eating. If you notice patterns of symptoms after eating certain foods, you can try removing those foods from your diet. The diary also can be a good way to record what is going on in your life. Stress plays a role in IBS. If you are aware that particular stresses bring on symptoms, you can try to reduce those stresses.


Current as of: April 15, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD – Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD – Family Medicine

Current as of: April 15, 2020

Treatment at Home, Dehydration and When to See a Doctor

Diarrhea (loose, watery bowel movements) is a common problem in young children. It is usually caused by a virus. It can also be caused by bacteria, something that the child eats or drinks (like too much fruit juice) or starting a new medicine. It rarely means a child has a serious illness.

The biggest risk of diarrhea is dehydration (being dried out). This means that the child has lost too much fluid and does not have enough electrolytes (salts) in their body for it to work the right way. Your child may need extra liquids given in smaller amounts and more often, until they are well. Mild diarrhea usually goes away in a couple of days.

Read below to see what to do.

Mild Diarrhea (2 to 5 Watery Bowel Movements a Day)

Keep your child on their regular diet.

Offer more breast milk or formula in smaller amounts and more often.

Do not give fruit juices or liquids that are high in sugar, such as Hawaiian Punch®, Hi-C®, Kool-Aid®, sodas or syrups. These can make diarrhea worse. Do not give teas or broths.

If your child eats solid foods, choose more starchy foods like cereal and crackers.

Moderate to Severe Diarrhea (6 or More Watery Bowel Movements a Day)

With moderate to severe diarrhea, your child may need to drink an ORS (oral rehydration solution) like Pedialyte® to help prevent dehydration. An ORS replaces the electrolytes (salts) and fluids that your child needs. Sports drinks and home remedies should not be used instead.

ORS store brands are just as good as a brand name. You can buy ORS in liquid or powder form or as popsicles at most pharmacies without a prescription.

ORS should not be given as the only fluid for more than 6 hours. Do not dilute or mix an ORS with formula.

Children Younger Than 1 Year of Age

  • ORS (oral rehydration solution)
  • Breast milk or formula mixed the normal way (if tolerated). Do not stop breastfeeding.
  • No water except when used to make formula
  • Do not give fruit juices or liquids that are high in sugar, such as Hawaiian Punch®, Hi-C®, Kool-Aid®, sodas or syrups. Do not give teas or broths. These liquids do not have the right mix of electrolytes and can make diarrhea worse.
  • If your child eats solid foods, give more starchy foods like cereal and crackers. Avoid red-colored foods that might look like blood in diarrhea or in vomit.
  • Try to go back to a normal diet after one day.

Children Older Than 1 Year of Age

Same as above, and

  • Water
  • Milk, if tolerated
  • Ice popsicles made from ORS
  • Flavored gelatin cubes
  • Starchy foods like breads, pasta, mashed potatoes, pretzels
  • Yogurt

Amount of Liquid to Give to Prevent Dehydration

Measure the amount of liquid your child needs based on their weight (Picture 1). Gradually work up to giving the following amounts:

Child’s Weight

Minimum Goal to Give Every Hour*

7-10 lbs. At least 2 ounces (4 tablespoons or 1/4 cup)
11-15 lbs. At least 2 1/2 ounces (5 tablespoons)
16-20 lbs. At least 3 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup)
21-40 lbs. At least 6 1/2 ounces (3/4 cup)
41-60 lbs. At least 10 ounces of liquid every hour (1 1/4 cups per hour)

* Minimum fluid goals per hour may increase if diarrhea, vomiting or fever are present.

WARNING: Do not give medicines to stop the diarrhea unless your doctor specifically orders it. These medicines can be very dangerous to children if they are not used properly.

Skin Care

You may need to change your child’s diapers more often until the diarrhea stops. Wash your child’s bottom after each bowel movement. If needed, use diaper rash cream to help protect the skin.

Signs of Dehydration

Watch for signs of dehydration while treating your child’s diarrhea (Picture 2).

  • No wet diaper or does not urinate (pass water) for 6 or more hours, very dark urine
  • No tears when crying
  • Dry or sticky mouth
  • Hard or fast breathing
  • Sunken-looking eyes
  • Soft spot on baby’s head is flat, sunken or pulls in.
  • Constant abdominal pain (bellyache)
  • Hard to wake up (lethargic), acts confused or does not know what they are doing.

Preventing the Spread of Infection

If a virus caused your child’s diarrhea, do the following to prevent the spread to others:

  • Make sure your child washes hands with soap and water after using the toilet and before eating.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after touching your child and their eating utensils, dirty laundry or diapers (Picture 3).
  • Keep your child’s utensils, toys and dirty clothes away from others. Wash them in hot soapy water.
  • Clean the toilet and hard surfaces often with disinfectant or an antimicrobial wipe. Let dry 15 seconds.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your child’s doctor if you think your child is getting worse, does not get any better in 48 hours, will not breastfeed or has:

  • Severe stomach pain (more than occasional cramps)
  • Bloody diarrhea (more than a streak of blood)
  • Diarrhea that is more frequent or more severe
  • Signs of dehydration (See above)
  • A high fever. Use a digital thermometer and wash thoroughly after each use.
    • for age 3 months or younger, a rectal (in baby’s bottom) temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher.  
    • for any age, a temperature over 102°F (38.9°C), that lasts more than 2 days. Take rectal, ear or axillary (armpit) temperatures in infants 4 months of age or older. When your child reaches 4 years of age, oral (mouth) temperatures are OK.

Diarrhea (PDF) , Somali (PDF) , Spanish (PDF)

HH-I-29 ©1977, Revised 2020, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Diarrhoea and vomiting – NHS

Diarrhoea and vomiting are common in adults, children and babies. They’re often caused by a stomach bug and should stop in a few days.

The advice is the same if you have diarrhoea and vomiting together or separately.

How to treat diarrhoea and vomiting yourself

You can usually treat yourself or your child at home. The most important thing is to have lots of fluids to avoid dehydration.


  • stay at home and get plenty of rest

  • drink lots of fluids, such as water or squash – take small sips if you feel sick

  • carry on breast or bottle feeding your baby – if they’re being sick, try giving small feeds more often than usual

  • give babies on formula or solid foods small sips of water between feeds

  • eat when you feel able to – you do not need to eat or avoid any specific foods

  • take paracetamol if you’re in discomfort – check the leaflet before giving it to your child


  • do not have fruit juice or fizzy drinks – they can make diarrhoea worse

  • do not make baby formula weaker – use it at its usual strength

  • do not give children under 12 medicine to stop diarrhoea

  • do not give aspirin to children under 16

How long diarrhoea and vomiting last

In adults and children:

  • diarrhoea usually stops within 5 to 7 days
  • vomiting usually stops in 1 or 2 days

Diarrhoea and vomiting can spread easily


Stay off school or work until you’ve not been sick or had diarrhoea for at least 2 days.

To help avoid spreading an infection:


  • wash your hands with soap and water frequently

  • wash any clothing or bedding that has poo or vomit on it separately on a hot wash

  • clean toilet seats, flush handles, taps, surfaces and door handles every day


  • do not prepare food for other people, if possible

  • do not share towels, flannels, cutlery or utensils

  • do not use a swimming pool until 2 weeks after the symptoms stop

A pharmacist can help with diarrhoea and vomiting

Speak to a pharmacist if:

  • you or your child (over 5 years) have signs of dehydration – such as dark, smelly pee or peeing less than usual
  • you need to stop diarrhoea for a few hours

They may recommend:

  • oral rehydration sachets you mix with water to make a drink
  • medicine to stop diarrhoea for a few hours (like loperamide) – not suitable for children under 12


Call a pharmacy or contact them online before going in person. You can get medicines delivered or ask someone to collect them.

Urgent advice: Get advice from 111 now if:

  • you’re worried about a baby under 12 months
  • your child stops breast or bottle feeding while they’re ill
  • a child under 5 years has signs of dehydration – such as fewer wet nappies
  • you or your child (over 5 years) still have signs of dehydration after using oral rehydration sachets
  • you or your child keep being sick and cannot keep fluid down
  • you or your child have bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from the bottom
  • you or your child have diarrhoea for more than 7 days or vomiting for more than 2 days

111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.

Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.

Other ways to get help

Get an urgent GP appointment

A GP may be able to help you.

Ask your GP practice for an urgent appointment.

Check with the GP surgery before going in. A GP may speak to you on the phone.

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if you or your child:

  • vomit blood or have vomit that looks like ground coffee
  • have green or yellow-green vomit
  • might have swallowed something poisonous
  • have a stiff neck and pain when looking at bright lights
  • have a sudden, severe headache or stomach ache

What we mean by severe pain

Severe pain:
  • always there and so bad it’s hard to think or talk
  • you cannot sleep
  • it’s very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress
Moderate pain:
  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress
Mild pain:
  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but does not stop you doing things like going to work

Causes of diarrhoea and vomiting

You probably will not know exactly what the cause is, but the main causes of diarrhoea and vomiting are treated in the same way.

The most common causes are:

Other causes of diarrhoea or vomiting

Diarrhoea can also be caused by:

Vomiting can also be caused by:

Page last reviewed: 07 December 2020
Next review due: 07 December 2023

90,000 how to save your body on your own

In the summer, it is very easy to get poisoned by stale foods that go bad in hot weather. Also, those who are in a hurry to buy a watermelon containing a huge amount of nitrates have a great risk of getting upset. Well, what is poisoning without diarrhea? Since the trouble has already occurred, you urgently need to look for a way out so as not to spoil your plans and mood.

Diet for diarrhea: basic rules

The disorder does not always arise from poisoning with poor quality products.Sometimes it can be a bacterial and viral infection, which are accompanied by severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever. Therefore, you will have to forget the usual diet for a while and start following a diet that will ease the condition and help remove all toxins from the body.

The first step is to drink as much water as possible. During diarrhea, a large amount of fluid is excreted from the body, so dehydration sets in very quickly. Water will help restore balance and help cleanse the stomach and intestines.

Try to eat grated food or low-fat broths. Don’t burden an already irritated stomach. At the same time, it is necessary to exclude fatty meat and fish from the diet, as well as fresh vegetables and fruits. You will also have to forget about dairy products for a while, as they can provoke bloating and increase acidity, which will lead to an exacerbation. Any doctor will categorically prohibit eating nuts, processed foods, drinking tea and coffee during a disorder. Therefore, please be patient and try not to get frustrated.

What foods will help with diarrhea

In order for the diarrhea to stop, it is necessary to completely restore the intestinal microflora, soothe the gastric mucosa and reduce the number of fermentation processes.

Drinking regime plays an important role here. Patients can not only water, but also, for example, a decoction of chamomile, which will perfectly calm the entire gastrointestinal tract. Another good folk remedy will be a decoction of oak bark – it has astringent and tanning properties that help excess fluid to be absorbed, so that diarrhea quickly stops.And lovers of herbal tea can safely drink a decoction of mint leaves. It will ease stomach cramps and soothe the intestines.

Perfectly absorbed and help to get rid of the constant rumbling and gurgling in the stomach crackers and drying. It is not for nothing that they are called the ideal food for various kinds of poisoning.

Boiled rice stabilizes the digestive tract well and helps to restore the intestinal microflora. Its feature can be called the ability to absorb various gases and acids, which significantly improves the condition in case of poisoning or an infectious disease.

Boiled vegetables will be a good addition to rice. They diversify the meager diet and replenish the supply of essential trace elements and vitamins that the body loses during diarrhea.

In the event that diarrhea is accompanied by severe nausea, we advise you not to burden the body, but to drink lean chicken broth. It satisfies hunger well and does not cause irritation. The broth can be replaced with oatmeal cooked in water without added sugar. It coats the walls of the stomach, helping to restore the digestive process and speed up recovery.

What foods should be excluded from the diet

Diarrhea is a very unpleasant and serious thing. If you do not help yourself in time, the healing process can be very delayed. Therefore, try to exclude bread, pasta and baked goods from your diet. Semi-finished products, sweets, chips, soda and other foods that children love so much are also banned. Plums, beets and pickled cucumbers sometimes cause indigestion, even in completely healthy people.

Therefore, we advise you to adhere to a strict diet and carefully monitor your condition. You need to return to the previous diet gradually, each introducing some foods into the diet. This is the only way you can quickly improve your health.

90,000 Nutrition for intestinal upset. The Big Book on Nutrition for Health

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