What are the signs and symptoms of food poisoning?

Updated: Jun 19, 2018
  • Author: Roberto M Gamarra, MD; Chief Editor: Praveen K Roy, MD, AGAF  more...
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The symptoms of food poisoning vary in degree and combination. They may include the following:

  • Abdominal pain: Most severe in inflammatory processes; painful abdominal muscle cramps suggest underlying electrolyte loss

  • Vomiting: Major presenting symptom of S aureus, B cereus, or Norovirus [1]

  • Diarrhea: Usually lasts less than 2 weeks

  • Headache

  • Fever: May be an invasive disease or an infection outside the GI tract

  • Stool changes: Bloody or mucousy if invasion of intestinal or colonic mucosa; profuse rice-watery if cholera or a similar process

  • Reactive arthritis: Seen with Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, and Yersinia infections

  • Bloating: May be due to giardiasis

More serious cases of food poisoning can result in life-threatening neurologic, hepatic, and renal syndromes leading to permanent disability or death.

See Clinical Presentation for more detail.

See 8 Cases of Food Poisoning: Find the Pathogen Responsible, a Critical Images slideshow, to help identify various pathogens and symptoms related to foodborne disease.

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