Food Poisoning - Symptoms, Types, Causes & Diagnosis

Food Poisoning - Symptoms, Types, Causes & Diagnosis

Food poisoning, also referred to as foodborne illness sometimes, is one of the most common sicknesses that anyone can contract, just by eating contaminated food or water.   Symptoms can range from upset stomach, and...

STAY SAFE - "DON'T LET BACTERIA SPOIL YOUR MEAL" All you need to know about bacterial food poisoning.

What is Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning, also referred to as foodborne illness sometimes, is one of the most common sicknesses that anyone can contract, just by eating contaminated food or water.

Symptoms can range from upset stomach, and vomiting and become as severe as blurring of vision and tingling sensations, and serious dehydration.

Mostly, it gets relieved on its own but sometimes it needs hospital care. Through this article, you will get in-depth knowledge about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of bacteria that caused food poisoning and also give an idea of other leading causes.

How Common is it?

Food poisoning was the second most prevalent cause of infectious illness outbreaks in India in 2017, according to data.

From 50 occurrences in 2008 to 242 in 2017, the number of outbreaks has grown. Moreover, recent countrywide research found an alarming frequency of 13.2% at the household level.

" Understanding the culprits of Food Poisoning."

Food poisoning is caused by many bacteria, viruses, parasites, and poisons found in food.

In India, the most prevalent cause of food poisoning is Entamoeba, which is followed by campylobacter bacteria, salmonella bacteria, E Coli bacteria, and norovirus.

Although most of them reflect similar signs and symptoms, it's important to note that the symptoms and incubation periods can vary depending on the individual and the amount of contaminated food consumed. Additionally, some individuals may experience more severe symptoms or complications, particularly if they have weakened immune systems or other underlying health conditions.

Here is a table showing all the bacteria responsible, with their incubation period, symptoms, and foods causing infection. Some other causative agents like parasites and viruses are added too.



Incubation Period

Foods Responsible

Means of Transmission

Staphylococcus aureus           



Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea           

1-6 hours

By infected individuals

Contaminated food or water, person-to-person



Diarrhea (often bloody), fever, abdominal cramps

2-5 days

Undercooked chicken, unpasteurized milk, contaminated water

Contaminated food or water, cross-contamination



Diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps

12-72 hours

Poultry, eggs, raw meat, fruits, vegetables      

Contaminated food or water, cross-contamination



Fever, muscle aches, nausea, diarrhea

1-70 days           

Unpasteurized dairy products, deli meats, hot dogs   

Contaminated food or water, cross-contamination


Clostridium perfringens   

Diarrhea, abdominal cramps           

6-24 hours

Meat, particularly beef, and poultry

Contaminated food or water


Escherichia coli (E. coli)          

Diarrhea (often bloody), abdominal pain, vomiting           

2-5 days

Beef, produce grown in contaminated soil      

Contaminated food or water, person-to-person


Diarrhea, gas, stomach cramps, bloating

1-2 weeks           

Raw, undercooked food

Contaminated water, raw or undercooked foods  


Diarrhea, stomach cramps, dehydration           

2-10 days

Contaminated water, raw or undercooked foods  

Contaminated food or water, person-to-person



Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps

12-48 hours           

Shellfish, salads, contaminated water  

Contaminated food or water, person-to-person, aerosolized vomit


Hepatitis A    

Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever

15-50 days

Shellfish, produce, contaminated water  

Contaminated food or water, person-to-person

It's important to note that this is not an exhaustive list and that many other pathogens can cause food poisoning.

" Knowing the Symptoms of the Food Poisoning "

The symptoms usually range from mild to severe. Some of them are:

Mild food poisoning symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Low-grade fever
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild dehydration (thirst, dry mouth)

Mild food poisoning symptoms usually begin within a few hours to a day or two after eating contaminated food and usually last for a few days to a week. Most people recover without any specific treatment, but it's important to stay hydrated and get plenty of rest.

Severe food poisoning symptoms:

  • High fever (temperature over 101.5°F)
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Blood in stool or vomit
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Confusion or difficulty thinking clearly
  • Blurred vision or double vision
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis

Severe food poisoning symptoms can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. They can indicate a more serious infection or complication, such as sepsis or organ failure. If you experience any of these symptoms after eating contaminated food, seek medical help right away.

"Detect the cause, before it gets late - Diagnosis of Food Poisoning"

Diagnosing food poisoning typically involves a combination of reviewing the patient's symptoms, medical history, and any recent food consumption. A doctor may also conduct various tests to identify the specific pathogen responsible for the illness. Here are some tests commonly used to diagnose food poisoning:

  • Stool culture: This involves collecting a sample of the patient's stool and sending it to a laboratory to identify any bacteria or other pathogens present.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests can help identify certain pathogens, such as Salmonella or E. coli, by detecting antibodies or other markers in the blood.
  • Imaging tests: In some cases, imaging tests such as X-rays or CT scans may be used to look for signs of complications such as bowel obstruction or perforation.
  • Urine tests: Some types of food poisoning, such as Shigella infection, can be detected through a urine test.

Effective Treatment Options for Bacterial Food Poisoning.

Treatment for bacterial food poisoning depends on the specific type of bacteria and the severity of the illness. In general, the goal of treatment is to manage symptoms, prevent dehydration, and promote healing. Here are some detailed treatment options for bacterial food poisoning:

Fluid Replacement

One of the primary concerns with bacterial food poisoning is dehydration, which can occur due to vomiting and diarrhea. To prevent dehydration, it is essential to replace lost fluids by drinking plenty of water or other electrolyte solutions, such as Pedialyte. In severe cases, it is of utmost importance to receive intravenous fluids.


Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help to restore the natural balance of bacteria in the gut, which may be disrupted by bacterial food poisoning. Probiotic supplements or foods such as yogurt, kefir, and kimchi can help to replenish beneficial gut bacteria.


Resting is essential during the recovery period from bacterial food poisoning. It can help to reduce the severity of symptoms and allow the body to focus on healing.


In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat bacterial food poisoning, particularly if the infection is severe, the person is immunocompromised, or the bacteria is particularly virulent. Antibiotics can help to reduce the duration and severity of symptoms and prevent complications.

The particular antibiotic used depends on the type of bacteria that caused the infection. Some commonly used antibiotics for bacterial food poisoning include ciprofloxacin, azithromycin, doxycycline, and amoxicillin.

Anti-diarrheal medications

Anti-diarrheal medications, such as loperamide or bismuth subsalicylate, may be used to help manage diarrhea associated with bacterial food poisoning. These medications work by slowing down the movement of the intestines, which can help to reduce the frequency of bowel movements and alleviate diarrhea.


 Antiemetic medications, such as ondansetron or promethazine, may be used to manage nausea and vomiting associated with bacterial food poisoning.

Intravenous Fluids

In severe cases of bacterial food poisoning, hospitalization may be necessary to receive intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Antibiotics may not be necessary or effective for all types of bacterial infections, and overuse or misuse of antibiotics can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Additionally, some types of bacterial food poisoning, such as botulism or listeria, may require specialized treatments that go beyond antibiotics, so it is important to seek medical attention promptly if you suspect that you have bacterial food poisoning.

"Choose wisely -what to eat."

Bacterial food poisoning can be caused by various types of bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, and Campylobacter. During a bout of bacterial food poisoning, it is essential to avoid certain types of foods that can further irritate the digestive system and prolong the recovery process. Here are some recommendations for foods to avoid and foods to eat during bacterial food poisoning:

Foods to Avoid

  • Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, and seafood
  • Unpasteurized dairy products and juices
  • Raw or undercooked eggs
  • Raw sprouts
  • Unwashed fruits and vegetables
  • Processed foods such as deli meats, hot dogs, and smoked fish

Foods to Eat:

  • Clear fluids such as water, broths, and herbal teas to stay hydrated.
  • Foods that are easy to digest such as boiled potatoes, plain rice, and toast.
  • Cooked vegetables such as carrots, green beans, and zucchini.
  • Protein sources that are lean such as grilled chicken and fish.
  • Dairy products that are low fat like cottage cheese and yogurt.
  • Bananas and other low-fiber fruits help regulate bowel movements.

It is important to note that bacterial food poisoning can be a serious condition and may require medical attention. If you suspect that you have bacterial food poisoning, it is recommended that you consult with a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.

"Prevention is the best flavoring: precautions to prevent food poisoning."

Food poisoning can be prevented by taking certain precautions while handling, storing, and cooking food. Here are some precautions that can be taken to avoid food poisoning:

  • Thoroughly, wash your hands before handling food or handling pets.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Cooking food at the right temperature helps in the elimination of bacteria.  Ensure that meat, poultry, and seafood should be cooked to the recommended temperature and ensured by a food thermometer.
  • Store food at the appropriate temperature. Refrigerate perishable foods promptly and avoid leaving food at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Use safe water sources to wash fruits and vegetables and to prepare food.
  • Eating raw or undercooked eggs, meat, poultry, and seafood should be avoided.
  • Be cautious when consuming food at buffets or from street vendors. Make sure that the food is cooked properly and served at the appropriate temperature.
  • Follow food safety guidelines when preparing food at home. Thoroughly clean surfaces, utensils, and cutting boards with hot, soapy water before and after preparing food.

"Steering through the complications."

Food poisoning is a condition caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or toxins. While most cases of food poisoning are mild and can be treated at home, some cases can lead to serious complications, especially in people with weakened immune systems, children, pregnant women, and the elderly. Here are some of the most common complications of food poisoning:

  • Kidney Failure: Some types of food poisoning, such as E. coli and Salmonella, can cause kidney failure in some people. This can occur when toxins produced by the bacteria enter the bloodstream and damage the kidneys. Symptoms of kidney failure include decreased urine output, swelling in the legs or feet, and fatigue.
  • Neurological Complications: Certain types of food poisoning can cause neurological complications, such as meningitis or encephalitis. These complications can occur when bacteria or viruses enter the brain and cause inflammation. Symptoms of neurological complications can include headaches, fever, and changes in mental status.
  • Bloodstream Infections: Some types of food poisoning can lead to bloodstream infections, which can be life-threatening. This can occur when bacteria or viruses enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body. Symptoms of bloodstream infections include fever, chills, and low blood pressure.
  • Reiter's Syndrome: Reiter's syndrome is a rare complication of food poisoning caused by Salmonella, Shigella, or Yersinia bacteria. It can cause joint pain, eye irritation, and painful urination.
  • Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome: Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a serious complication of food poisoning caused by E. coli bacteria. It can cause damage to red blood cells and the kidneys, leading to anemia, low platelet count, and kidney failure

In conclusion, if you suspect that you have food poisoning, it is important to seek medical attention immediately, stay hydrated, and avoid eating or drinking anything that could further aggravate your symptoms. Additionally, it is essential to take steps to prevent food poisoning by practicing good food safety habits, such as washing your hands and cooking food thoroughly.

"Don't let food poisoning blemish your food pleasure, Fight back against food poisoning and stay in control."