How Do You Know If You Have Food Poisoning?

June 27, 2018
A close-up image of an individual clutching their stomach as they deal with stomach issues.

Experiencing symptoms of food poisoning can be unpleasant and even alarming. Knowing when to seek medical care is crucial for managing symptoms effectively and preventing complications. Keep reading to learn more about the most common food poisoning symptoms and when you should see a doctor for food poisoning. 

How Does Food Poisoning Occur?

Food poisoning often results from mishandling, undercooking, or improperly preparing foods like meat or eggs, as well as improper storage practices. Bacteria can rapidly multiply in foods that aren't adequately chilled, and certain raw foods, such as bean sprouts, fresh fruits, and lettuce, may even harbor bacteria long before you purchase them. Unfortunately, merely washing these items is inadequate to eliminate the possibility of food poisoning, as they likely absorbed contaminated water during their growth cycle.

What Are the Symptoms of Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning can occur when you consume contaminated food or beverages, leading to a range of uncomfortable symptoms. Recognizing these symptoms is crucial for prompt treatment and recovery. Here are some common signs to watch out for:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain or cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite

If you experience any combination of these symptoms after eating, it's essential to seek medical attention promptly, especially if they persist or worsen over time.

Severe Symptoms

In some cases, food poisoning may lead to more serious symptoms, such as fever, headache, muscle or joint aches, and blood in the stool. Rarely, food poisoning may be linked to blurry or double vision and tingling in the arms. If you begin to experience any combination of these symptoms, you should seek emergency care as soon as possible.

Where Should You Go for Food Poisoning Treatment?

For most people, food poisoning symptoms come and go quickly—often within a few hours or days. But symptoms that linger longer may indicate a more serious problem. If your symptoms persist, it is important to visit your nearest provider to have your symptoms evaluated. But where should you go?

When to Visit Your Primary Care Physician for Food Poisoning

If you experience mild symptoms of food poisoning that resolve on their own within a day or two, you may not need to visit urgent care or the emergency room (ER). However, if you have ongoing concerns or underlying health conditions, scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician is advisable. Your primary care physician can evaluate your symptoms, discuss your medical history, and provide personalized recommendations for managing your condition and preventing future episodes of food poisoning.

When to Visit Urgent Care for Food Poisoning

If you experience symptoms of food poisoning that are moderate to severe but not life-threatening, visiting an urgent care center may be appropriate. Urgent care providers can assess your symptoms, provide treatment, and offer recommendations for managing your condition at home. You should consider visiting urgent care if you experience:

  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • High fever (above 101°F)
  • Signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, decreased urine output, or dizziness

At PhysicianOne Urgent Care, our experienced providers can evaluate your symptoms and prescribe medications to alleviate nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, if necessary.

When to Go to the ER for Food Poisoning

In some cases, food poisoning can lead to complications that require emergency medical attention. You should go to the ER if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Severe abdominal pain or cramping that persists or worsens
  • Bloody diarrhea or vomit
  • Confusion or difficulty staying awake
  • Rapid heart rate or palpitations

These symptoms may indicate a more serious condition, such as severe dehydration, bacterial infection, or organ damage. Prompt medical treatment is essential to prevent complications.

How Is Food Poisoning Treated?

While food poisoning often resolves on its own, there are cases that require medical intervention. A doctor can order a stool culture to help identify the underlying cause of your symptoms and determine which antibiotics are most likely to combat it successfully. A microscopic exam of the stool may also be used to reveal any parasites that may be present. 

When to Visit PhysicianOne Urgent Care for Food Poisoning

If you experience symptoms of food poisoning such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping for more than 48 hours, it is important to be evaluated to rule out dehydration. PhysicianOne Urgent Care has urgent care centers across Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts, that are open 7 days per week with extended hours. Walk into one of our locations today to have one of our providers evaluate your symptoms or take advantage of our integrated 24/7 telehealth service. We accept most major health insurance plans and offer affordable self-pay rates to those who are uninsured.

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