You’re throwing up and have diarrhea. It must have come from dinner last night, right? Not so fast. Most food borne illness take 24 to 48 hours hours to develop symptoms. Some can take even longer to make you sick.
E.coli—E. coli is a bacteria that lives in the human intestines. It gets into food when people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. Generally, it takes 3-4 days to get sick. Symptoms include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. If there is fever, it usually is not very high (less than 101˚F/less than 38.5˚C). Most people get better within 5–7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.
Salmonella—Salmonella bacteria gets transferred to people by handling infected animals, or consuming animal products with the bacteria. Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps between 12 and 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most individuals recover without treatment. In some cases, diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized.
Listeria—Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by the germ Listeria monocytogenes. It primarily affects pregnant women, newborns, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. It’s rare for people in other groups to get sick with Listeria infection. People with listeriosis usually report symptoms starting 1 to 4 weeks after eating food contaminated with Listeria. However, some people have reported symptoms starting as late as 70 days after exposure or as early as the same day of exposure.
Campylobacter— Campylobacter infection is caused by Campylobacter bacteria. It is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the United States. People with Campylobacter infection usually have diarrhea (often bloody), fever, and abdominal cramps. The diarrhea may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. These symptoms usually start within 2 to 5 days after exposure and last about a week. Some infected people do not have any symptoms.
Should You See a Doctor?
Dehydration is a major complication to watch out for if you have any type of food poisoning. Try to sip water, broth, or sports drinks to replace the fluids and electrolytes you’ve lost. If you are not running a fever, try over the counter medications like Pepto-Bismol or Immodium. Once you can keep fluids down, move to bland, easy to digest foods. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and dairy. For most people, symptoms subside in 48 hours. But it may take a few days to a few weeks for your digestive tract to calm down enough to process normal food. However, if you are running a high fever (over 101.5), have acute intestinal pain, or are dizzy or lightheaded, you need to see a doctor. If your stools or vomit become bloody, you stop urinating, or have blurry vision, get to the doctor ER immediately. Your doctor will do tests to try to determine the cause of the illness. He or she may also bring in the health department to gather information to determine if there is a potential outbreak. Food poisoning can be deadly, so pay attention to your symptoms and get to a doctor.