An estimated 48 million people get sick from food poisoning each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here’s how to recognize the most common food poisoning symptoms.
Contrary to popular belief, food poisoning doesn’t immediately send you running to the bathroom clutching your stomach after consuming a bite of contaminated food. Breaking out in a sweat can be an early warning sign—and an indication that things are about to get much worse. If the fever and perspiration make you think you have a stomach bug, try to remember if you ate something suspicious in the past few days. It can be easy to confuse food poisoning with the flu: Here are some important differences between food poisoning and a stomach bug.
Stomach cramps and flatulence are a good sign that your stomach is roiling with a food bug, according to the Mayo Clinic. They often precede a frantic rush to the bathroom. If abdomen pain has you doubled over and hobbling for the toilet, it’s an accurate—and unfortunate—sign that bad bacteria are at work in your gut.
Nausea and vomiting
While nausea and vomiting are hallmarks of food poisoning, how soon the symptoms show up will depend on which strain of bacteria made you sick. For example, Listeria, commonly found in deli meats, hummus, or raw milk and soft cheeses, can trigger symptoms anywhere from three to 70 days after exposure, while Salmonella, most notably contaminating eggs, meat (especially poultry), and raw fruits and veggies can cause symptoms to appear within 12 to 72 hours, says Sandra Elizabeth Ford, MD, district health director of the Dekalb County Board of Health in Decatur, Georgia. Here’s the real truth behind common food poisoning myths.
Diarrhea is another obvious food-poisoning sign, but how do you tell common diarrhea caused by a stomach virus from diarrhea caused by contaminated food? Clues can be found in the type of diarrhea. Norovirus is the most common cause of stomach flu and it can spread via food handled by a contaminated individual. It causes watery diarrhea, most commonly in adults. Meanwhile, E. coli—known for contaminating beef—and Campylobacter—waterborne—can both cause bloody diarrhea. “If bloody diarrhea or any other symptoms are severe, seek medical attention,” says Ford. Symptoms may last for 1 to 10 days, depending on what you were infected with. Here are more reasons you might have diarrhea.