Food Poisoning

By: Joe Swails

What is food poisoning?
Simply put, food poisoning is where you become ill as a result of something you’ve eaten.

Most bouts of food poisoning are caused by eating unwashed fruit and vegetables, or due to bacteria in meat and seafood.

The onset of symptoms can be sudden and severe. If you have a weakened immune system or are pregnant, you are particularly at risk of having food poisoning. That said, anyone at any age can get food poisoning (including babies and small children).

Symptoms of food poisoning include:




Stomach pains and cramps



Muscles aches

Fever and chills

For many people food poisoning can lead to gastroenteritis.

About gastroenteritis: Gastroenteritis is an infection which inflames the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. It can affect all age groups, but most commonly the under-fives.

Complications of gastroenteritis include malnutrition and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

In countries with poor sanitation, gastroenteritis can be contracted through drinking from a water supply contaminated by germs or bacteria.

Babies with gastroenteritis will usually refuse feeds, and older children will experience a loss of appetite through developing the condition.

As well as viruses and toxins, other common causes of food poisoning include:

Food contamination - singular or cross contamination

Salmonella – a type of bacteria usually found in poultry, eggs and unprocessed milk. It causes a bacterial infection of the intestinal tract.

Listeria – Pregnant women who contract illness from Listeria (a bacterial infection usually from dairy products) can have sudden stillbirths.

E. coli – a common and large group of bacteria that affect the intestines

For most people food poisoning is not a health condition that requires an ‘official’ diagnosis from a GP or gastroenterologist. You will not normally require medical attention. The symptoms should clear up after about a week. However, if your vomiting continues for more than 3 days, you have blood in your vomit and/or stools, and you begin to suffer seizures (‘fits’), then arrange an appointment with your GP. After taking your medical history and asking you some questions about your symptoms, you may be asked to have a blood test. The test is to check for infection and also to rule out other possible health conditions, many of which have the same or very similar symptoms to food poisoning.

If a confirmed diagnosis is made, an appropriate treatment will be recommended to you.

Effect on your life
Basically, food poisoning can be extremely inconvenient as it will mean that you will need to take up to a week off work. You will also be unable to carry out your normal everyday tasks at home. The symptoms should pass after a week, however. And as you gradually recover you will start to feel stronger and more able to return to normal.

With food poisoning, although you will probably not need treatment or any attention at all from your GP or another medical professional, you must take care not to become dehydrated during your recovery period. Drink plenty of fluids and take rehydration treatments if necessary (please see the How Chemist Online can help section below).

If the source of your food poisoning is thought to be bacterial, your GP may prescribe a course of antibiotics.

How Chemist Online can help
Through this website we have available rehydration treatments such as Electrolade Sachets (Multiflavour). This is an oral rehydration treatment which replaces fluids and minerals lost in acute diarrhoea – a major symptom of food poisoning.

Advice & Support
Food Standards Agency

Tel: 020 7486 0341

The Gut Trust
Helpline: 0114 272 3253

This information and advice is not intended to replace the advice of your GP or chemist. Chemist Online is also not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based upon the content of the Chemist Online website. Chemist Online is also not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites.

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