Food Poisoning: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

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 food-borne illness.

There are many types of a food-borne illness. Your symptoms depend on the type of a food-borne illness you have. You will probably begin to feel better in 1 or 2 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 call line 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 caffeine-free clear liquids until you feel better. 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.
  • Begin eating small amounts of mild, low-fat foods, depending on how you feel. Try foods like rice, dry crackers, bananas, and applesauce.
    • Avoid spicy foods, alcohol, and coffee until 48 hours after all symptoms have disappeared.
    • Avoid chewing gum that contains sorbitol.
    • Avoid dairy products for 3 days after symptoms disappear.
  • Take your medicines as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call 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 and 4°C.
  • 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 have sudden, severe belly pain.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • You pass maroon or very bloody stools.

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

  • You have signs of needing more fluids. You have sunken eyes and a dry mouth, and you pass only a little urine.
  • Weakness in your legs makes it hard to stand or walk.
  • You have swelling in your hands, face, or feet.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • Your stools are black and tar-like or have streaks of blood.
  • You have numbness and tingling in your hands or feet.
  • You have new nausea or vomiting.
  • Your joints ache.

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

  • Your vomiting is not getting better after 1 to 2 days.
  • Your diarrhea is not getting better after 3 days.

Where can you learn more?

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Current as of: March 3, 2017