If you’re suffering from food poisoning symptoms, you’re likely wondering how long the symptoms will last for. With common symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, food poisoning is an experience that you want to recover from fast.
Food poisoning results from eating food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, pathogens, or toxins. It is actually a very common condition.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in every six Americans will suffer from food poisoning each year. While the symptoms of food poisoning are typically mild, food poisoning can lead to death or disability in some cases.
There are various pathogens that can cause food poisoning, but there are five common contaminants that account for many cases. These are:
When Will My Food Poisoning Symptoms Go Away?
If you’re experiencing a sudden onset of sickness, you’re probably wondering what the signs and symptoms of food poisoning are. So, what are the signs of food poisoning, you ask? Well, the truth is that it depends on the type of food poisoning you have contracted. Different pathogens, viruses, and bacteria can have different effects on your body.
For most types of food poisoning, the easiest way to prevent them is through proper cooking and handling of food. That means cleaning surfaces or utensils to avoid cross-contamination, cooking meat to the proper internal temperature, and washing your hands while you prepare food. All of this can kill or prevent the spread of harmful contaminants.
However, once you contract food poisoning, everything from the onset of the illness to the duration of your symptoms can depend on the type of pathogen that poisoned you. Typically, food poisoning symptoms will occur several hours after eating contaminated food, but in some instances they can develop up to a week later or more. While most cases of food poisoning resolve in two to four days, some instances can last for weeks or even months.
Even among the five most common types of food poisoning, the symptoms and duration can be very different. If you want to know how long your food poisoning will last, then you need to figure out which type of food poisoning you likely have. If you are feeling ill, take a look at the following food poisoning duration chart. It includes the five most common food-related illnesses.
Food Poisoning Duration Chart
|Type of Food Poisoning
|Common Food Sources
|Duration of Illness
|Norovirus poisoning (commonly referred to as winter diarrhea, viral gastroenteritis, Norwalk virus, and food infection).
|Food that is not cooked or heated, including fruits and vegetables. Drinking water can also be contaminated.
|Diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, nausea, and food poisoning fever.
|Salmonella poisoning (referred to as salmonellosis).
|Eggs, meat, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.
|Diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, food poisoning fever, and abdominal cramps.
|Clostridium perfringens poisoning (referred to as perfringens food poisoning)
|Beef, poultry, and gravies.
|Severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
|Less than 24 hours
|Campylobacter poisoning (referred to as campylobacteriosis).
|Poultry, unpasteurized milk and drinking water.
|Diarrhea (sometimes bloody), vomiting, food poisoning fever, and abdominal pain and cramping.
|Staphylococcus aureus poisoning (referred to as staphylococcal poisoning).
|Milk, dairy products, meats (particularly processed meat), and desserts.
|Sudden and severe nausea, diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.
While these are the most common types of food poisoning, there are many other types of foodborne illness. If your sickness does not seem to match one of the five most common types, you may have a rare form of food poisoning. While some of these can last for as little as a day, others (i.e. hepatitis and cyclosporiasis) can last for as long as several months.
By narrowing down the foods you ate and your symptoms, you can determine just how long you have to wait to be healthy again. In most cases, you can expect to be feeling better within 10 days.
High-Risk Groups: Who Is at Risk From Food Poisoning?
While food poisoning is relatively mild and can often resolve on its own, there are specific groups who are at a high risk of both contracting food poisoning and suffering serious consequences from the illness. In fact, some cases of food poisoning can require hospitalization and—in extreme cases—can even result in death. If you are in one of the following high-risk groups, any case of food poisoning has to be taken very seriously:
- Anyone with a compromised or not fully developed immune system is at an increased risk of contracting food poisoning. This includes both children, whose immune systems are still developing, and elderly people, whose immune systems are typically slower and more compromised.
- People with autoimmune conditions or diseases that affect their immune systems are at an increased risk of contracting food poisoning. These could include people with diabetes or AIDS, or even cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
- Pregnant women are also at an increased risk of developing food poisoning, due to the changes their bodies are undergoing. In some instances, the fetus can become sick too.
When to See a Doctor for Food Poisoning?
If you are at an increased risk of contracting food poisoning, and you get sick after eating a meal, then you should seek medical attention immediately. Even for people who are not at an increased risk, food poisoning can have serious consequences. When food poisoning seems particularly severe, that is usually a sign to see a doctor.
There are some signs that indicate very serious poisoning that requires emergency attention. These include:
- Sudden sickness within 30 minutes of eating food. This can indicate a serious instance of food poisoning in which organ damage can occur.
- Difficulty with speech, muscle paralysis, blurred or fuzzy vision, and muscle weakness all indicate serious food poisoning that could be life-threatening.
- Diarrhea that lasts for more than two days in an adult or one day in a child, or which occurs with an infant.
- Severe diarrhea.
- Frequent vomiting.
- Blood in either stool or vomit.
- Extreme cramping or abdominal pain.
- Dehydration, which can include excessive thirst, little urination, sunken eyes, and dizziness.
- Black or tarry stool.
- A fever over 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit or 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit in an infant under three-months-old.
Food poisoning is a terrible experience for anyone, but by knowing the signs and symptoms of food poisoning, we can get a good idea of what we’re dealing with and when we should seek medical attention.
The key points to keep in mind:
- The onset and duration of food poisoning both vary based on the different types of bacteria, viruses, and pathogens that can make us sick. The good news is that symptoms of food poisoning typically go away within ten days.
- If the food poisoning is unusually severe, or if you detect that you have food poisoning, then it is crucial to see a doctor. Your doctor can determine whether or not you have food poisoning and offer you treatment options that can help reduce your symptoms.
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“Food Poisoning,” Mayo Clinic web site, July 24, 2014; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-poisoning/basics/definition/con-20031705.
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“Norovirus,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site, http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/, last accessed November 25, 2015.
“Staphylococcal Food Poisoning,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site, March 29, 2006; http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/staphylococcus_food_g.htm.
“Understanding Food Poisoning — Symptoms,” WebMD web site, http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/food-poisoning/understanding-food-poisoning-symptoms, last accessed November 25, 2015.
Selner, M., et al., “Food Poisoning,” Healthline web site, http://www.healthline.com/health/food-poisoning#Overview1, last accessed November 25, 2015.