Food poisoning occurs when you eat food contaminated with bacteria, parasites, viruses or other toxins. These contaminants can get into your food in many different ways. The most common causes of contamination are from infected food handlers who don't wash their hands or wear gloves properly and from kitchenware or service utensils that weren't cleaned properly. Food poisoning can also occur when foods haven't been refrigerated at cold enough temperatures or cooked at hot enough temperatures. If you have food poisoning, you will most likely begin to feel the symptoms two to six hours after eating the contaminated food. The most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and headaches [source: Mayo Clinic].
Most food poisoning doesn't require medical attention. If you think you may have gotten sick from mushrooms or shellfish, immediately contact a doctor. Otherwise, you'll usually recover from the most common types of food poisoning within a few days. Knowing how to recognize the symptoms and take care of yourself will help you feel better faster. Here's what to do [source: NYTimes Health].
- Most importantly, make sure you drink lots of water. Your goal is to keep your body hydrated and replace the fluids lost by vomiting and diarrhea. Slowly sip water or suck on ice chips if you're having trouble keeping things down.
- You shouldn't consume caffeinated beverages or dairy products until you feel completely better. Upset stomachs are easily irritated by these products.
- You may not have much of an appetite, but it's important to consume calories to keep your energy up. Once the vomiting has stopped, you can start drinking liquids other than water, like broth, clear soda or flavored water (such as Sprite or Propel) or an electrolyte beverage (such as Gatorade).
- When you feel up to it, you can start eating bland, easily digestible foods, like soda crackers, dry toast, plain rice, bananas or applesauce.
- Take a probiotic. These contain good bacteria that help your body digest food, and can treat the symptoms caused by harmful bacteria by restoring the balance in your gut.
- You shouldn't take anti-diarrheal medications. Your body is trying to get rid of the contaminants in your system, and preventing it from purging could make your illness worse.
- Last, but certainly not least, get plenty of rest to help your body recover.
If your symptoms don't improve or get worse after two days, if you notice blood in your vomit or bowel movements or if you have a temperature over 101.5 F (38.6 C), contact your doctor [source: NYTimes Health].