Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Foodborne Illness: Care Instructions

Main Content

Foodborne Illness: Care Instructions


Foodborne illness (also call food poisoning) occurs when you eat foods that contain harmful germs. Food can be contaminated while it is growing, during processing, or when it is prepared. Fresh fruits and vegetables also can be contaminated if they are washed in contaminated water. You may have become ill after eating undercooked meat or eggs or other unsafe foods. Cooking foods thoroughly and storing them properly can help prevent a foodborne illness.

There are many types of foodborne illness. Your symptoms depend on the type of foodborne illness you have. You will probably begin to feel better in a few days. In the meantime, get plenty of rest and make sure that you do not become dehydrated.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of fluids. Choose water and other clear liquids until you feel better. You can take frequent sips of a rehydration drink (such as Pedialyte). Soda, fruit juices, and sports drinks have too much sugar and not enough of the important electrolytes that are lost during diarrhea. These kinds of drinks should not be used to rehydrate. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • When you feel like eating again, start with small amounts of food.
  • Take your medicines as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.

To prevent a foodborne illness

  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • Do not eat meats, dressings, salads, or other foods that have been kept at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  • Use a thermometer to check your refrigerator. It should be between 1 °C (34 °F) and 4° C (40 °F).
  • Defrost meats in the refrigerator or microwave, not on the kitchen counter.
  • Keep your hands and your kitchen clean. Wash your hands, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water. If you use the same cutting board for chopping vegetables and preparing raw meat, be sure to wash the cutting board with hot, soapy water between each use.
  • Cook meat until it is well done.
  • Do not eat raw eggs or uncooked dough or sauces made with raw eggs.
  • Do not take chances. If you think food looks or tastes spoiled, throw it out.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You vomited blood.

Call your doctor now or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse belly pain.
  • You have a new or higher fever.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have symptoms of dehydration, such as:
    • Dry eyes and a dry mouth.
    • Passing only a little urine.
    • Feeling thirstier than normal.
  • You cannot keep down medicine or fluids.
  • You have new or more blood in stools.
  • You have new or worse vomiting or diarrhea.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter C880 in the search box to learn more about "Foodborne Illness: Care Instructions".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.