Top of the page
C. perfringens food poisoning is caused by infection with the Clostridium perfringens ( C. perfringens) bacterium. C. perfringens is found frequently in the intestines of humans and many animals and is present in soil and areas contaminated by human or animal feces.
In most cases, C. perfringens foodborne illness results when you eat improperly cooked and stored foods. Normally, C. perfringens spores are found on food after cooking. Bacteria can multiply and cause C. perfringens foodborne illness if the foods sit out and cool before refrigerating. Commonly infected foods include meats, meat products, and gravy.
Symptoms of C. perfringens foodborne illness include intense abdominal cramps and watery diarrhea. Your symptoms usually appear 6 to 24 hours after eating foods containing large numbers of C. perfringens. The disease usually is over within 24 hours. Less severe symptoms may last for 1 or 2 weeks.
Your doctor will do a medical history and physical examination and ask you questions about your symptoms, foods you have recently eaten, and your work and home environments. A stool culture and blood tests may be done to confirm the diagnosis.
You treat C. perfringens foodborne illness by managing any complications until it passes. Dehydration caused by diarrhea and vomiting is the most common complication. Do not use medicines, including antibiotics and other treatments, unless your doctor recommends them.
To prevent dehydration, take frequent sips of a rehydration drink (such as Pedialyte). Try to drink a cup of water or rehydration drink for each large, loose stool you have. You can also use a sports drink, such as Gatorade. Soda and fruit juices have too much sugar and not enough of the important electrolytes that are lost during diarrhea, and they should not be used to rehydrate.
Try to stay with a healthy diet as much as possible. Eating healthy foods will help you to get enough nutrition. Doctors believe that eating a healthy diet will also help you feel better faster. But try to avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar. Also avoid spicy foods, alcohol, and coffee for 2 days after all symptoms have disappeared.
You can prevent C. perfringens foodborne illness by cooling and storing foods correctly.
It is important to pay particular attention to food preparation and storage during warm months when food is often served outside. Bacteria grow faster in warmer weather, so food can spoil more quickly and possibly cause illness. Do not leave food outdoors for more than 1 hour if the temperature is above 32°C (90°F), and never leave it outdoors for more than 2 hours.
Adaptation Date: 8/18/2021
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. All rights reserved. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.