Treating food poisoning 

In most cases, food poisoning can be treated at home without seeking medical advice.

It is very important that you do not become dehydrated because it will make you feel worse and slow down your recovery.

Dehydration is a risk because you will lose fluid through vomiting and diarrhoea.

You should try to drink as much water as possible, even if you're only able to sip it, particularly after you pass diarrhoea.

Oral rehydration salts (ORSs)

Oral rehydration salts (ORSs) are recommended for people vulnerable to the effects of dehydration, such as the elderly and those with a pre-existing health condition.

ORSs are available in sachets from pharmacies. You dissolve them in water to drink and they help replace salt, glucose and other important minerals your body loses through dehydration.

If you have a kidney condition, some types of oral rehydration salts may not be suitable for you. Ask your pharmacist or GP for further advice about this.

Other self care advice

To cope with your symptoms and speed up your recovery you should also:

  • rest
  • eat when you feel up to it (the gut sometimes needs time to recover and food may cause diarrhoea even if you feel better)
  • stick to foods that are easily digested, such as toast, crackers, bananas and rice until you begin to feel better
  • avoid alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine and spicy and fatty foods because they will make you feel worse 

Further treatment

Visit your GP or accident and emergency (A&E) department if you are severely dehydrated – for example, if you have sunken eyes and you are unable to urinate.

Your GP may admit you to hospital so that you can be given fluids and nutrients through a tube inserted into a vein (intravenously).

Read more about treating dehydration.

Antibiotics may be prescribed if test results show the source of your food poisoning was bacterial, and your symptoms are severe or last longer than 3–4 days.

Antibiotic tablets are usually used, although you may be given injections if your symptoms are severe or if you are struggling to keep tablets down.

Page last reviewed: 27/03/2013

Next review due: 27/03/2015