I Might Have Food Poisoning—What Do I Do Now?


hUnsure if you have food poisoning? Sometimes we can tell when we’ve eaten contaminated food – maybe the food tasted “off” or stale, had an unusual smell or was a bit past the expiration date, but you chose to consume it anyway. Other times, it may not be as clear if food is contaminated. Food can have normal taste, smell and texture and still cause food poisoning.

For these reasons, food poisoning is not uncommon. Many people will experience the condition over the course of their lifetime, and some may require medical attention if their symptoms escalate.

I think I may have food poisoning—when should I see a doctor?

Symptoms of food poisoning can often mimic those of a cold or the flu, but they are more focused on a person’s digestive system. Food poisoning symptoms can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping and pain
  • Fever

These symptoms are unpleasant but can usually be handled with at-home care, such as staying hydrated and resting. However, when these symptoms escalate in severity, patients should seek medical care.

You should see a doctor if:

  • You are unable to keep liquids down and/or if you are vomiting frequently.
  • Your stool or vomit has blood in it.
  • Your abdominal pain is severe.
  • You have had diarrhea for more than three days.
  • Your fever reaches 101.5 F.
  • You exhibit symptoms of dehydration: weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness, dry mouth, little to no urination, blurred vision or a tingling sensation in your arms.

Some individuals—those whose immune systems are underdeveloped (children, infants), weakened or changed (older adults, those with chronic disease, pregnant women)—are more prone to food poisoning than others.

Should you require medical attention due to your symptoms, your doctor will test for food poisoning by asking you questions about your symptoms, how long you’ve been sick, and what specific foods you’ve consumed. If there is a need for further testing, your doctor may conduct a blood or stool test to determine the cause – though this is not always possible.

In most cases of food poisoning where medical attention is needed, patients are treated for dehydration, and some are given antibiotics depending on their individual diagnosis. If you are uncertain whether your symptoms warrant medical attention, we encourage you to contact your provider.

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