Food poisoning in children: Symptoms and treatment (2023)

Food poisoning happens when your baby or toddler eats food or drinks water that's contaminated with disease-causing bacteria. Some viruses can also cause food poisoning. Because their immune systems are still developing, children younger than 5 years are at a higher risk of food poisoning than the general population.

How can I tell if my child has food poisoning?

If your child has food poisoning, the symptoms will likely appear two to 48 hours after he eats the food. Symptoms will usually last a day or two, but can continue for a week or more in severe cases.

With kids, it can be difficult to distinguish food poisoning from stomach flu (gastroenteritis) because the symptoms are so similar.

Food poisoning symptoms

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Achiness
  • Headache
  • Excessive fussiness in a baby (which may signal abdominal pain)

Symptoms of more severe food poisoning

  • Vomiting for more than three days
  • Severe headache or abdominal pain
  • Blood in stool or vomit
  • A swollen, hard belly
  • Sleepiness
  • Dehydration

When should I call the doctor?

Talk to a doctor as soon as you suspect your child might have food poisoning. She can decide if your child's symptoms can be monitored at home, warrant an office visit, or require emergency treatment.

Also call the doctor if your child shows any signs of mild to moderate dehydration, including a lack of tears, going more than six hours without urinating, dark yellow urine, lethargy, and a parched mouth.

Warning: If your child shows signs of severe dehydration, call 911.

How is food poisoning treated?

Usually, a case of food poisoning just needs to run its course.

If your child is severely dehydrated, though, his doctor may admit him to the hospital or have you go to urgent care or the emergency room for intravenous (IV) fluids.

Occasionally, in the case of bacterial food poisoning, the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic.

(Video) Food Poisoning - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What can I do to ease my child's symptoms?

The most important thing is to keep your child hydrated to replace the fluids her body is losing through vomiting and diarrhea. Offer your baby the breast or bottle, and offer your toddler or toddler sips of water. If your baby or toddler is reluctant to drink, it might be helpful to offer fluids with a syringe.

The doctor may recommend giving your child an oral pediatric electrolyte solution to replace the fluids and electrolytes (salt and minerals) that your child's body is losing. Electrolyte solutions are also available as ice pops, which may be more enticing for your child.

Avoid sweetened drinks – including juices, sodas, and sports drinks – because these can make symptoms worse.

If your child has a fever, ask the doctor about giving her infant's or children's acetaminophen, if she's over 2 months of age, or ibuprofen, if your child is over 6 months of age.

When can my child go back to eating normally?

Once your child's vomiting and diarrhea decrease and he can tolerate food, resume a normal diet as soon as possible, including staples such as complex carbohydrates (like bread, cereal, and rice), lean meat, yogurt, fruits, and vegetables. Stay away from fatty food, which may make symptoms worse.

Studies show that reintroducing a standard diet as soon as possible can shorten the duration of the illness because it restores essential nutrients necessary to fight infection. On the other hand, if your child misses a few days' worth of good nutrition because his illness kills his appetite, don't worry. Just make sure you keep him hydrated.

Note: Doctors no longer recommend the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) for tummy troubles.

How can I help protect my child from contracting food-borne illness again?

It's impossible to protect your child from all food-borne bacteria. But you can lower her risk of contracting food poisoning by following safe food storage and preparation practices. Here are some important ones:

Food storage safety tips

  • Defrost food in the refrigerator, not on the countertop or in the sink.
  • Don't eat meat, poultry, or fish that's been refrigerated uncooked for more than one or two days.
  • Don't use outdated food, packaged food that has a broken seal, or cans that are dented or misshapen.
  • Don't leave food or beverages outside the refrigerator for more than an hour before consuming.
  • Keep hot food hot, and cold food cold, before eating it.
  • Clean lids of canned goods before opening.

Food prep safety tips

  • Thoroughly wash hands – yours and your child's – often with warm water and soap. Always wash hands before preparing food.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool water. Use a produce brush to remove dirt.
  • After preparing raw meat, poultry, or fish, wash all kitchen surfaces well with hot, sudsy water.
  • If someone in the family is sick, disinfect areas with a bleach-based household cleaner. Leave the disinfectant on the area for at least five minutes, then clean again with soap and hot water.
  • Use separate cutting boards, plates, and knives for produce and for raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
  • Never put cooked food, like grilled meat, back on a plate or cutting board that held uncooked food.
  • Make sure food is cooked well. Use a meat thermometer: Beef should be at least 160 degrees F, poultry at least 165 degrees F, and fish at least 145 degrees F.
  • When reheating food, be sure to do so thoroughly. Don't just warm it. Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil. Reheat other leftovers to 165 degrees F.
  • Follow directions for safely mixing baby formula.

More food safety tips

(Video) FOOD POISONING in Babies and Kids | Reason, Symptoms and Prevention

  • Don't serve food that looks or smells unusual or off.
  • Don't give your child unpasteurized food or drink, such as cheese or juice.
  • Don't drink water from untreated wells or streams.

How can I tell what kind of food poisoning my child has?

Testing of blood, stool, and leftover food may identify the bacteria, but often the doctor won't need to identify the exact culprit because the treatment is the same regardless.

If there's blood in your child's stool, or if the symptoms are severe or prolonged, though, the doctor may test to make sure that your child doesn't have food poisoning caused by certain dangerous bacteria.

What are the most common types of food poisoning?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common food-borne infections are those caused by the bacteria:

  • Campylobacter
  • Salmonella
  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Staphylococcus aureus

Noroviruses also cause food poisoning.

Four other infectious organisms are less common but are more likely to cause more severe symptoms leading to hospitalization: Listeria, Escherichia coli, Vibrio, and Clostridium botulinum. C. botulinum causes botulism, which is especially dangerous for babies less than 1 year of age.

Let's take a look at each in more detail.

Campylobacter

Campylobacter is the most frequent bacterial cause of food poisoning.

How it's transmitted: Campylobacter is usually transmitted through raw or undercooked poultry or unpasteurized milk. Your child can also get it from contaminated water. It's possible to contract the bacteria from the stool of a dog or cat. It's not usually spread from person to person, but it can be. If your child is infected and has diarrhea, for example, you could possibly get it from changing his diaper and not thoroughly washing your hands.

Symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), cramping, abdominal pain, and fever – but possibly no symptoms

Timing: Campylobacter usually lasts for two to five days but can linger for up to 10 days.

Salmonella

In a very young baby, salmonella can invade the bloodstream and become life threatening.

(Video) ஃபுட் பாய்சனா அதை வீட்டிலேயே ஈஸியா சரிசெய்யலாம் / Home Remedies For Food Poisoning in Tamil

How it's transmitted: Salmonella can be present in raw or undercooked eggs, poultry and meat, raw milk and dairy products, and seafood, and can be spread by food handlers. Reptiles like pet iguanas, turtles, lizards, and snakes can also carry salmonella.

Symptoms: Fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and possibly tiny pink spots on the skin

Timing: Symptoms usually start eight to 48 hours after contact and last for a day or two, though they can persist for more than a week. The bacteria can continue to exist in the body for months.

Clostridium perfringens

Foods that are prepared in large quantities and kept warm for a long time before serving are a common source of Clostridium perfringens.

How it's transmitted: C. perfringens is often found on raw meat and poultry. Other common sources are gravies and dried or precooked foods.

Symptoms: A sudden onset of diarrhea and abdominal cramps

Timing: Usually within eight to 12 hours of eating the food. It usually lasts less than 24 hours, although young children can have more severe symptoms that last for a week or two.

Staphylococcus aureus

Food usually becomes contaminated with staph bacteria during food preparation.

How it's transmitted: Staph bacteria on someone's hands can contaminate a food. The bacteria then multiply in the food and produce toxins. Cooking kills the bacteria, but not the toxins. Foods that aren't cooked after handling (such as sliced meats, pastries, and sandwiches) are particularly risky if they're contaminated.

Symptoms: A sudden onset of nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea

Timing: Symptoms usually show up within half an hour to eight hours after eating the toxin. Food poisoning caused by staph bacteria is rarely severe and usually lasts no more than a day.

(Video) Science for kids - Food Poisoning | Experiments for kids | Operation Ouch

Norovirus

Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States. Because it's highly contagious, it spreads easily in group settings like daycare.

How it's transmitted: The norovirus is transmitted through contaminated food, water, utensils, and surfaces.

Symptoms: Severe vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain

Timing: Vomiting usually begins suddenly, about 24 to 48 hours after contact with the virus, although symptoms can show up as early as 12 hours. A case of norovirus usually goes away on its own in one to two days.

Botulism

There are only about 110 cases of botulism in the United States each year, but it's a particularly worrisome form of food-borne illness because it can be life threatening for a baby.

How it's transmitted: Botulism is caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. Infant botulism happens when a baby eats the bacteria or its spores, and they then grow in his intestinal tract. This bacteria is found in soil, but it's most often transmitted through improperly canned or preserved food, especially home-canned vegetables, cured pork and ham, smoked or raw fish, corn syrup, and honey. This is why you should never feed honey to a baby before his first birthday.

Symptoms: Constipation and weakness; left untreated, muscle and respiratory paralysis

With a baby, the weakness can result in loss of muscle tone, a weak cry, droopy eyelids, weak sucking, and trouble feeding due to difficulty swallowing.

Timing: Symptoms usually show up in eight to 36 hours after contact with the bacteria.

Learn more

  • Which plants are not safe?
  • Stomach ache in children

FAQs

What is the most effective way to treat food poisoning? ›

Replace lost fluids and electrolytes

You should drink plenty of liquids. If vomiting is a problem, try sipping small amounts of clear liquids. Replacing lost fluids and electrolytes is the most important treatment for food poisoning. Eating saltine crackers can also help replace electrolytes.

What are the symptoms of food poisoning answer? ›

Food poisoning symptoms, which can start within hours of eating contaminated food, often include nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Most often, food poisoning is mild and resolves without treatment. But some people need to go to the hospital.

How long can food poisoning last in a child? ›

Most cases of food poisoning get better in 5 to 10 days without treatment. Some things you can do to help your child while they're sick include: Drinking a lot of liquids. Some food poisoning symptoms can cause dehydration.

What home remedy is good for a child vomiting? ›

8 Effective Home Remedies for Vomiting in Children - YouTube

What foods stop food poisoning? ›

Foods should be bland, low in fat, and low in fiber. Because fat is harder for the stomach to digest, avoid fatty foods as much as possible. Foods that are easier on the stomach include cereal, bananas, egg whites, gelatin, oatmeal, plain potatoes, rice, crackers, toast, and applesauce.

How fast can you cure food poisoning? ›

Most of the time, food poisoning passes within 12 to 48 hours. That's how long it takes for a healthy body to purge the infection. It may last longer if you have a weakened immune system, or if you have a parasite that needs to be treated with antibiotics.

What antibiotics are used to treat food poisoning? ›

Your doctor might prescribe antibiotics if your foodborne illness is caused by bacteria or a parasite. For serious cases of food poisoning as a result of E. Coli (Escherichia coli) exposure, azithromycin (Zithromax) or the rifaximin (Xifaxan) may be prescribed.

How long can food poisoning symptoms last? ›

Symptoms begin 6 to 24 hours after exposure: Diarrhea, stomach cramps. Usually begins suddenly and lasts for less than 24 hours.

How do I know if my child has food poisoning? ›

If your kid develops symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea within hours of eating and lasts for a few days, they may be suffering from food poisoning.
...
Symptoms of food poisoning include:
  1. Diarrhea.
  2. Vomiting.
  3. Nausea.
  4. Headache.
  5. Upset stomach.
  6. Low-grade fever.
  7. Overall weakness.
  8. Cramps in the lower abdomen.
16 Dec 2021

How do you stop a child from vomiting? ›

How do I treat my vomiting child at home? Most cases of vomiting respond well to gentle care at home. What's important is that your child stays hydrated and drinks plenty of fluids. Breast milk, formula, oral rehydration solution are all suitable, but avoid offering drinks that contain a lot of sugar.

Can food poisoning recover by itself? ›

Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating contaminated food. It's not usually serious and most people get better within a few days without treatment.

What are the 4 types of food poisoning? ›

At least 250 different kinds of food poisoning have been documented, but the most common ones are e. coli, listeria, salmonella, and norovirus, which is commonly called "stomach flu." Other less common illnesses that can be transferred from food or food handling are botulism, campylobacter, vibrio, and shigella.

How is food poisoning diagnosed? ›

How do doctors diagnose food poisoning? Doctors often diagnose food poisoning based on your symptoms. If your symptoms are mild and last only a short time, you typically won't need tests. In some cases, a medical history, a physical exam, stool tests, and blood tests can help diagnose food poisoning.

What can stop vomiting faster? ›

What can be done to control or relieve nausea and vomiting?
  1. Drink clear or ice-cold drinks.
  2. Eat light, bland foods (such as saltine crackers or plain bread).
  3. Avoid fried, greasy, or sweet foods.
  4. Eat slowly and eat smaller, more frequent meals.
  5. Do not mix hot and cold foods.
  6. Drink beverages slowly.
23 Jul 2019

What medicine stops vomiting? ›

Medications to stop vomiting

OTC medications for nausea can include Pepto-Bismol and Kaopectate, which contain bismuth subsalicylate. These medications help protect the stomach lining and reduce vomiting caused by food poisoning.

What to drink to stop vomiting? ›

Drinking 1 to 2 ounces of clear liquids about 30 minutes after the last vomiting episode occurred. Examples of possible fluids include water, broth, or herbal tea. Avoiding alcohol and carbonated beverages when vomiting, as they will only worsen nausea and lead to further dehydration.

Can food poisoning be cured in a day? ›

You may recover in a few days … or not

Most of the time, food poisoning will pass within 12 hours to 48 hours in healthy people. That's how long it takes for a healthy body to purge most foodborne infections. But your length of illness can vary based on several factors.

Does lemon juice help food poisoning? ›

The acid in lemons helps kill bacteria that cause food poisoning. Just add a pinch of sugar to one teaspoon of lemon juice and drink it two to three times a day.

Does food poisoning require antibiotics? ›

For some types of bacterial food poisoning, your healthcare provider may give you a medicine that fights bacteria (an antibiotic). Antibiotics don't work on infections caused by a virus. In severe cases, you may need to be hospitalized. Call your healthcare provider if you can't keep fluids down.

How long does food poisoning last 3 days? ›

Most cases of food poisoning will take 1 to 5 days to fully recover from. Young children, elderly, pregnant women, and those with underlying medical or immune system conditions are at increased risk of developing severe illness from food poisoning.

What can I drink to ease food poisoning? ›

You can drink water or try Gatorade or Pedialyte. You may be tempted to try over-the-counter medications, but Dr. Feckoury says food poisoning usually needs to run its course. In the meantime, he also advises rest and a BRAT diet, which consists of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast.

What to eat after vomiting? ›

Try foods such as bananas, rice, applesauce, dry toast, soda crackers (these foods are called BRAT diet). For 24-48 hours after the last episode of vomiting, avoid foods that can irritate or may be difficult to digest such alcohol, caffeine, fats/oils, spicy food, milk or cheese.

Do you get a fever with food poisoning? ›

While the main symptoms are nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps, you also may have a fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, or blood in your stool.

How food poisoning is transmitted? ›

They can transfer into your body when you eat contaminated food, drink contaminated water, or put anything in your mouth that's come in contact with the feces of an infected person or animal. You can spread this type of food poisoning through physical contact or by preparing food with contaminated hands.

How do you make food poisoning go away faster? ›

You can drink water or try Gatorade or Pedialyte. You may be tempted to try over-the-counter medications, but Dr. Feckoury says food poisoning usually needs to run its course. In the meantime, he also advises rest and a BRAT diet, which consists of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast.

What can I drink to ease food poisoning? ›

Vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration, so sucking on ice chips or taking small sips of water is a good starting point. Sports drinks that contain electrolytes are the best way to prevent dehydration during this time. Other suggested liquids include: non-caffeinated sodas, such as Sprite, 7UP, or ginger ale.

How do you stop a child from vomiting? ›

How do I treat my vomiting child at home? Most cases of vomiting respond well to gentle care at home. What's important is that your child stays hydrated and drinks plenty of fluids. Breast milk, formula, oral rehydration solution are all suitable, but avoid offering drinks that contain a lot of sugar.

What does food poisoning look like in children? ›

Food poisoning symptoms include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhoea. Children probably won't need any specific treatment for food poisoning. If children have food poisoning, they should avoid dairy products and drink plenty of fluids.

Can you flush food poisoning out of your system? ›

Flush Your System

Food poisoning usually gets better on its own within a few days, Ng says. Drinking plenty of fluid, especially water, is the first line of treatment to replace lost fluid and prevent dehydration. Sports drinks can help replenish important electrolytes such as calcium and potassium.

Does milk help food poisoning? ›

Most cases of food poisoning are mild and clear up in a few days. During that time, the goal is to prevent dehydration. Dehydration is the loss of fluids and electrolytes (nutrients and minerals) your body needs. You should avoid solid foods and dairy products until the vomiting and diarrhea have passed.

Can food poisoning be cured in a day? ›

You may recover in a few days … or not

Most of the time, food poisoning will pass within 12 hours to 48 hours in healthy people. That's how long it takes for a healthy body to purge most foodborne infections. But your length of illness can vary based on several factors.

How fast can you cure food poisoning? ›

Most of the time, food poisoning passes within 12 to 48 hours. That's how long it takes for a healthy body to purge the infection. It may last longer if you have a weakened immune system, or if you have a parasite that needs to be treated with antibiotics.

How long should food poisoning last? ›

Symptoms begin 6 to 24 hours after exposure: Diarrhea, stomach cramps. Usually begins suddenly and lasts for less than 24 hours. Vomiting and fever are not common.

Does lemon juice help food poisoning? ›

The acid in lemons helps kill bacteria that cause food poisoning. Just add a pinch of sugar to one teaspoon of lemon juice and drink it two to three times a day.

What is the medicine for vomiting child? ›

Ondansetron is a selective serotonin (5-HT3) receptor blocker that inhibits the initiation of the vomiting reflex in the periphery. A single dose of ondansetron is safe and effective in children who have acute gastroenteritis and do not respond to oral rehydration therapy.

Which medicine is best for vomiting? ›

Vomiting-relieving medication
  • Dopamine-blocking medications. These include prochlorperazine, haloperidol, chlorpromazine, perphenazine, promethazine, and levomepromazine. ...
  • Antihistamines. Some antihistamine medications include promethazine, cyclizine, and cinnarizine. ...
  • Hyoscine. ...
  • Serotonin-blocking medications. ...
  • Metoclopramide.
24 Aug 2021

What medicine can kids take for vomiting? ›

Domperidone and ondansetron are the most commonly known antiemetic drugs. A single oral dose of ondansetron has been shown to reduce the risk of recurrent vomiting, the need for intravenous fluids, and hospital admissions in children with acute gastroenteritis.

What helps diarrhea fast for kids? ›

How is diarrhea treated?
  1. Offer drinks called glucose-electrolyte solutions. ...
  2. Avoid juice or soda. ...
  3. Not give plain water to your baby.
  4. Not give too much plain water to kids of any age. ...
  5. Keep breastfeeding your baby. ...
  6. Keep feeding your baby formula, if you were already doing so.

How is food poisoning diagnosed? ›

How do doctors diagnose food poisoning? Doctors often diagnose food poisoning based on your symptoms. If your symptoms are mild and last only a short time, you typically won't need tests. In some cases, a medical history, a physical exam, stool tests, and blood tests can help diagnose food poisoning.

What can you give a child for upset stomach and vomiting? ›

If your child is throwing up, they should drink small amounts of fluids often. Offer your child 5 mL of fluids every few minutes. If they can keep that down, give them up to 30 mL of fluids every 5 minutes. It's best to give your child clear fluids, such as apple juice mixed with water or sport electrolyte drinks.

Videos

1. Vomiting in Children - Causes & Treatment | How to Stop Vomiting | Food Poisoning & Indigestion
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2. Signs of Food Poisoning: Care and Causes [Dr. Claudia]
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3. food poison sariyaga | food poisoning treatment | Tamil | Nesam health tips
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