Food poisoning: when to seek medical help?

Updated at: Jan 21, 2013
Food poisoning: when to seek medical help?

Food poisoning in most cases is a self limiting illness which improves in a few days. However, it can become a serious and potentially life threatening illness. Consult a doctor for food poisoning if your symptoms last for more than a few days, yo

Dr Poonam Sachdev
Other DiseasesWritten by: Dr Poonam SachdevPublished at: Aug 27, 2012

Food poisoning is a common condition which affects millions of people every year globally. In most cases the symptoms subside with self care and treatment at home. But it can become a serious and potentially life threatening illness.

Consult a doctor if have you experience any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Repeated vomiting which interfere with your ability to keep liquids down.
  • Blood in stool or vomiting.
  • Severe diarrhoea which lasts for more than three days.
  • Severe pain or cramping in abdomen.
  • High fever (oral temperature more than 101.5 0F).
  • Neurological symptoms such as difficulty in speaking, trouble in swallowing, double vision,muscle weakness that progresses downward.
  • Feeling giddy on standing up after lying down.
  • Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Swelling of the tongue and mouth.
  • Shaking or tremors of the arms and legs.
  • Fast heart beat.
  • Muscle pain and weakness.
  • Signs or symptoms indicative of dehydration.

These are some symptoms which may occur with food poisoning. Similar symptoms can be caused in many other medical conditions. Your doctor can examine you and diagnose the cause of your illness and treat it appropriately.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration in adults and children

Signs and symptoms of dehydration in adults are:

  • feeling excessively thirsty
  • reduced frequency of urination
  • dark-coloured urine
  • dry skin and mouth
  • feeling tired (fatigue)
  • feeling dizzy or light-headed.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration in infants and young children include:

  • Dry mouth and tongue.
  • Lack of tears on crying.
  • Decreased frequency of urination.
  • No wet diapers for 3 hours or more.
  • Sunken eyes, cheeks, or soft spot in the skull.
  • Listlessness or irritability.

Who to consult

Health professionals who can be consulted to evaluate your symptoms include:

  • family medicine doctor
  • physician
  • nurse practitioner, a nurse who has advanced training
  • physician assistant (a health professional who practices medicine under a doctor's supervision).




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