Food Poisoning

Vomiting / Diarrhoea and Food poisoning

Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating and drinking food or drink which is contaminated by germs or toxins. Many types of germs can cause food poisoning, including bacteria, viruses and parasites. Example – Campylobacter, Salmonella, Norovirus and Rotavirus.

Typically, food poisoning causes gastroenteritis, an infection of the gut (intestines), leading to diarrhoea and sometimes being sick (vomiting). Diarrhoea is defined as 'loose or watery stools (faeces), usually at least three times in 24 hours'.

Symptoms

  • Diarrhoea is the main symptom - blood or mucus can appear in the stools with some infections.
  • Vomiting (being sick) often lasts only a day or so.
  • Crampy pains in your tummy (abdomen)- may ease for a while each time you pass diarrhoea.
  • High temperature / fever - You may feel hot one minute and cold and shivery the next, and achy all over.

Dehydration

Dehydration is a lack of fluid in the body. If you are not able to replace the fluid lost with enough drinks Diarrhoea and Vomiting may cause dehydration.

Symptoms of Dehydration

  • Tiredness.
  • Dizziness or light-headedness.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Sunken eyes.
  • Passing less urine.
  • A dry mouth and tongue.
  • Weakness.
  • Becoming irritable.

Symptoms of severe dehydration include:

  • Profound loss of energy or enthusiasm (apathy).
  • Weakness.
  • Confusion.
  • A fast heart rate.
  • Producing very little urine.
  • Coma - may occur.

Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and immediate medical attention is needed. Contact your doctor if you think you are becoming dehydrated.

Treatment

Stay home from work and rest. Do not eat until 6 hours after the last episode of vomiting. You can continue to eat with diarrhoea but stick to starchy foods like toast, pasta, rice, chicken or fish.  Avoid dairy, fruit and vegetables until the diarrhoea has stopped.

Keep taking sips of clear fluid such as flat (not fizzy) white lemonade, sports drinks or oral rehydration solutions which you can get without prescription in your pharmacy.

Wash your hands after vomiting or going to the toilet to avoid spreading the infection to others.

Contact your doctor if: 

  • vomiting lasts more than 12 hours
  • diarrhoea persists for more than 48 hours
  • you notice blood in the vomit or diarrhoea
  • you have bad tummy pain with the vomiting or diarrhoea.
  • you cannot keep down any liquids
  • you are on medication for another condition and can’t take it because of the vomiting
  • you are worried about the vomiting

The vomiting and diarrhoea usually start hours or a very few days after eating the infected food. Diarrhoea often continues after the vomiting stops and commonly lasts for several days or more. Slightly loose stools may persist for a week or so further before a normal pattern returns. You often feel drained or washed out for a few days, until you regain your appetite.

More information 

Food poisoning

How to manage Diarrhoea