Food poisoning - Symptoms 

Symptoms of food poisoning 

In most cases, the symptoms of food poisoning develop 1-3 days after eating contaminated food.

However, the incubation period (the time between eating contaminated food and symptoms starting) will vary depending on factors such as:

  • the type of bacteria responsible
  • how much contaminated food is eaten
  • the person's overall health

In some cases, symptoms can develop several weeks or even months after eating contaminated food.

Read more about the causes of food poisoning and the differences in incubation periods.

The most common symptoms are:

Vomiting usually only lasts for a day or so, but it can sometimes last longer. Diarrhoea will often last for a few days, although you may continue to have an upset stomach for about a week or so.

Other symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • stomach cramps
  • abdominal pain 
  • loss of appetite
  • a high temperature of 38°C (100.4°F) or above
  • muscle pain
  • chills

Most people make a full recovery 1-2 days after the onset of symptoms.

When to seek medical advice

Most cases of food poisoning do not require medical treatment. However, you should seek medical advice if you have any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • vomiting that lasts more than two days
  • you are unable to keep liquids down for more than a day
  • diarrhoea that lasts for more than three days
  • blood in your vomit
  • blood in your stools
  • seizures (fits)
  • changes in your mental state, such as confusion
  • double vision 
  • slurred speech
  • signs of severe dehydration, such as a dry mouth, sunken eyes and an inability to pass urine, or passing small amounts of dark, strong-smelling urine

Pregnancy

Always contact your GP if you get food poisoning during pregnancy. Extra precautions may be needed. 


Page last reviewed: 27/03/2013

Next review due: 27/03/2015

Ratings

How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 1171 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating

Comments

The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

shandog said on 22 February 2014

I have food poisoning a couple of days ago and just recover after 3 days. It wasn't very pleasant i was feeling sick for quite a while but couldn't be sick and when i was i couldn't stop. I had banging head and stomach aches and felt dizzy and i was sweating but then cold but then hot. i also had diarrhea loss of appetite for 2 day so had nothing except water.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Orbilia said on 05 November 2012

Comment above is well made given that, for example, Salmonella can still be present in your gut for up to a year after initial infection and that one is not permitted to donate blood during that time due to the risk of cross-infection.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Dopey1072 said on 18 September 2012

This information was very useful, thank you.

The only thing missing was how long does it take to recover from food poisoning.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Reporting food poisoning

If you think your food poisoning has been caused by a restaurant or other food-related business, report it to your local environmental health department.

Environmental health officers will investigate and, if necessary, ensure that the business involved improves its standards of hygiene to prevent it happening again.

The Food Standards Agency provides further details about reporting poor hygiene standards in a food outlet.