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10 things to do
if you think you have food poisoning ...

Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace the advice of a health care professional. Stop Foodborne Illness waives any liability for decisions you make based on this information, and encourages you to visit an Emergency Room and/or your health care provider if you suspect you have a foodborne illness (food poisoning).

1. Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Consult a healthcare provider.

Symptoms of foodborne illness can include stomach pains, nausea, fever, and diarrhea.

Consult a healthcare provider when any of the following is present with diarrhea:
• High fever - a temperature over 101.5ºF
• Blood in the stools (bloody diarrhea)
• Prolonged vomiting, which prevents keeping liquids down and can lead to dehydration
• Signs of severe dehydration, such as dry mouth, decreased urination, dizziness, sticky saliva, fatigue, sunken eyes, low blood pressure or increased heart rate and/or breathing rate
• Confusion or difficulty reasoning

-- OR --

Adults: Diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days
Children: Diarrhea that lasts more than 24 hours

Note: Trust your instincts with your children's symptoms. You know your child.

2. Practice Good Hygiene

Don't spread it around

Be diligent about personal hygiene. Wash hands with soap and warm water often and thoroughly.

Be extremely careful when caring for someone who is ill. If possible, have the ill person use one bathroom, separate from the rest of the family.

If only one bathroom is available, clean and disinfect it after every use. Carefully seal and throw away dirty diapers.

Don’t share food and drinks while ill. Anyone who is sick or recovering should not prepare food. Even after you begin to feel better you may still be contagious.

3. Prevent Dehydration

To avoid dehydration from diarrhea or vomiting make sure you replace lost fluids.

If diarrhea is severe, rehydration solutions available at the pharmacy, such as Pedialyte (even for adults), can be helpful.

Diarrhea happens because your body is trying to rid itself of toxins, so you may not want to take antidiarrheal medications unless directed by a healthcare provider.

Ask questions before taking antibiotics for a suspected foodborne illness. If caused by a virus, antibiotics will have no effect.

In some cases, such as with E. coli O157:H7 infection, taking antibiotics can lead to a more severe complication like hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

4. Request Laboratory Testing

If you or your doctor suspect a foodborne illness, it is very important to
run additional tests to find out which pathogen is making you sick.

This ensures that you get the correct form of care and treatment.

Knowing which pathogen is making you sick can assist the public health dept. in preventing the next person’s illness.

Infections can be diagnosed by specific lab tests at your healthcare provider’s request. Bacterial illnesses are found by stool culture tests on your fecal samples sent to the laboratory. Viruses are harder to ID, and are usually found by testing stool for the genetic markers of a specific virus. Parasites are identified by examining stool samples under a microscope. At the time of these tests, ask when results will be available and who will contact you.

Positive results may indicate the pathogen, but negative results can mean many different things, including false negatives. Talk to your doctor about further tests if your illness cannot be confirmed. Knowing which pathogen made you or a loved one sick helps treat the current illness as well as understand what may occur in the future.

5. Record Foods Eaten in the Past 7 Days

If you or your healthcare provider suspects a foodborne illness make a list of everything eaten in the seven days (or more) leading up to the illness.

Make this list as soon as you can so it is as complete and accurate possible.

The last thing you ate is most likely NOT what made you sick. This critical information may help you figure out what food caused the illness. Or it may help your health department determine if it’s part of an outbreak, saving others from the same illness.

6. Save Your Receipts

Gather and save all relevant grocery store, restaurant and travel receipts for the time period you suspect the illness took place.

Remember: Many foodborne illnesses are caused by something you ate days or weeks ago.

Do not give anyone your receipts without making copies.

Often, if you use a store's membership or discount card, this information can be requested from the grocery store.

7. Save Suspect Food Products

If you still have access to any food/beverage products you suspect made you ill, handle them as little as possible,

... keep them sealed and cold/frozen, so they can be tested them if necessary.

Label these items so that no one else eats them.

If health authorities ask for them at a later point, give them a representative portion but not the entire sample, if possible.

8. Contact Your Health Department

Contact your state or local health department with a suspected or confirmed case of foodborne illness.

Every health department is different and they will vary in response.

If you or a family member are confirmed with a case of a reportable illness, insist on an interview from the health department about where and what you or the sick person ate. This may mean filling out a very detailed questionnaire.

9. Reach Out to Your Community or the Media

Use your social media to see if anyone else you know or in your community, group or school has a similar illness.

Local media may know of outbreaks or other illnesses in the area, so reach out to them.

Also check e-Alerts to see if there have been recalls for foods you've eaten or outbreaks of the illness for which you tested positive.

A site like may have info about others who have gotten sick.

10. Connect with
Stop Foodborne Illness

* Speak with someone
* Share your experience
* Find more information
* Read someone's story

Stop Foodborne Illness

Phone: 773-269-6555

If you think you have food poisoning you are not alone – we are here to help.