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What Are the Signs of Mild Food Poisoning?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Patients with mild food poisoning may experience diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting that typically start to resolve within three days. People may recover at home from mild food poisoning without any particular medical treatment beyond fluids and rest to support the immune system. If symptoms become severe or persist for more than three days, the attention of a doctor may be required. The doctor can evaluate the situation and determine if the patient needs medication or hospitalization for severe food poisoning.

Cases of mild food poisoning can be the result of infectious organisms or toxins in food, usually because the food was handled poorly or not prepared appropriately. Some examples can include Salmonella in undercooked chicken and toxins in seafood harvested during algal blooms. Patients may start to notice warning signs within hours, although it can take several days for some organisms to cause symptoms of disease.

Nausea is typically the first warning sign, along with abdominal pain and cramping. The patient might also feel dizzy, feverish, and irritable. As the mild food poisoning continues, the patient can start vomiting and may develop diarrhea. Fluid replacement is important, to make sure the patient does not become dehydrated during the episode of food poisoning. If patients cannot keep any fluids down, the case may be more severe.

Within three days of the onset of symptoms, the patient should start feeling better. Mild food poisoning can cause some lingering nausea and fatigue for up to ten days, but the vomiting and diarrhea should stop as the patient passes through the worst of the episode. Patients may also notice that they are more sensitive to some smells, and experience revulsion when exposed to the foods that made them ill. Someone who got sick after eating potato salad, for example, might lose a taste for it for several weeks or months.

Signs that food poisoning may be more severe can include an extremely high fever, bloody vomit or diarrhea, or disorientation. Patients who have difficulty walking, cannot be roused from a heavy sleep, or appear unusually distressed may need medical treatment. Persistent diarrhea and vomiting that do not allow a patient to retain fluids are also a cause for concern. A care provider like a doctor or nurse can check the patient, collect samples for testing, and make more aggressive treatment recommendations. It can be helpful to provide a list of recent meals, in case the food poisoning is the result of contaminated food that might be subject to recall.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon1006232 — On Feb 16, 2022

Stomach cramps and abdominal pain are not "mild." I experienced this from eating a frozen dinner of pasta.

By betterment — On Jul 16, 2012

I personally think getting sick with food poisoning is basically the worst way to be sick. At least if you get the regular flu, you can just lay in bed and relax. When you have food poisoning, you pretty much just have to camp out in the bathroom until you feel better.

Also, I hate getting stomach symptoms, I think it's just the worst. I will take a sore throat and a headache any day over that.

So that being said, I try to be really vigilant about food safety so I don't have to deal with the unpleasantness of food poisoning. I know sometimes you can't really help it, but I definitely try my best.

By LoriCharlie — On Jul 16, 2012

@ceilingcat - It definitely doesn't feel mild when you're sick like that, I agree. I guess they just mean mild in the sense that it isn't life threatening and usually you don't have to go to the doctor. When you get severe food poisoning, you sometimes have to be hospitalized for dehydration!

Anyway, I've had food poisoning before, and as the article said, I definitely didn't want to eat the food that made me sick for quite awhile. In fact, my mother got food poisoning quite a few years ago from a lobster, and she hasn't had one since!

By ceilingcat — On Jul 15, 2012

I had mild food poisoning earlier this year, and let me tell you, being sick like that for three days definitely doesn't feel mild! I was so sick I couldn't keep anything down, so all I really had for three days was water. I definitely didn't feel all the way better for a week or so, although the intestinal symptoms stopped after three days.

So if that's mild, I would really, really hate to experience severe food poisoning!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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