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Food poisoning symptoms

Food poisoning symptoms will typically begin within a few hours or a few days after eating the contaminated food. In rarer cases, it can sometimes take weeks for them to appear. You can find out about the different incubation periods, and how long it is likely to last here.

Symptoms will vary depending on the cause of the infection, but the most common ones are watery diarrhoea and vomiting.

If you have food poisoning, then you may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Tummy pain or cramps
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness and a lack of energy
  • Muscle aches
  • A fever
  • Chills
  • A headache

In most cases, you should start feeling better within a couple of days, but if you don’t, it is a good idea to see a GP.

In rare circumstances, food poisoning can be extremely serious. If you experience any of the following symptoms, then you should seek medical advice straight away:

  • Diarrhoea that is persistent for three days or more
  • A high fever of 38.5 Celsius or more
  • Blood in your urine
  • Blood in your vomit
  • Difficulty speaking or seeing
  • Muscle weakness, including tingling in the arms
  • Severe dehydration symptoms, such as a dry mouth, excessive thirst, dizziness, feelings of being lightheaded, little urination or severe weakness

At risk groups and food poisoning

If you are over 60, or vulnerable to infection because of a weakened immune system, have a long-term condition or are pregnant, it’s a good idea to get help, as food poisoning could lead to further medical complications.

If it is a young child or baby with suspected food poisoning, you should also see a GP and make sure they stay hydrated, as dehydration can be very dangerous for them, and happen quickly due to their low body weight.