Treatment

Treatment for food poisoning typically depends on the source of the illness, if known, and the severity of your symptoms. For most people, the illness resolves without treatment within a few days, though some types of food poisoning may last longer.

Treatment of food poisoning may include:

  • Replacement of lost fluids. Fluids and electrolytes — minerals such as sodium, potassium and calcium that maintain the balance of fluids in your body — lost to persistent diarrhea need to be replaced. Some children and adults with persistent diarrhea or vomiting may need hospitalization, where they can receive salts and fluids through a vein (intravenously), to prevent or treat dehydration.
  • Antibiotics. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if you have certain kinds of bacterial food poisoning and your symptoms are severe. Food poisoning caused by listeria needs to be treated with intravenous antibiotics during hospitalization. The sooner treatment begins, the better. During pregnancy, prompt antibiotic treatment may help keep the infection from affecting the baby.

    Antibiotics will not help food poisoning caused by viruses. Antibiotics may actually worsen symptoms in certain kinds of viral or bacterial food poisoning. Talk to your doctor about your options.

Adults with diarrhea that isn't bloody and who have no fever may get relief from taking the medication loperamide (Imodium A-D) or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol). Ask your doctor about these options.

July 15, 2017
References
  1. Foodborne germs and illnesses. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foodborne-germs.html. Accessed Jan. 31, 2017.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al. Diagnosis and management of foodborne illnesses: A primer for physicians and other health care professionals. MMWR. 2004;53:1. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5304a1.htm. Accessed Jan. 31, 2017.
  3. Acheson DWK. Patient information: Food-poisoning (foodborne illness). http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 31, 2017.
  4. Foodborne illness. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/foodborne-illnesses. Accessed Jan. 31, 2017.
  5. The big thaw — Safe defrosting methods for consumers. Food Safety and Inspection Service. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/the-big-thaw-safe-defrosting-methods-for-consumers/CT_Index. Accessed Jan. 31, 2017.
  6. Wanke CA. Approach to the adult with acute diarrhea in resource-rich settings. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 31, 2017.
  7. Gelfand MS. Treatment, prognosis, and prevention of Listeria monocytogenes infection. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 3, 2017.
  8. Gelfand MS. Clinical manifestations of Listeria monocytogenes infection. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 3, 2017.