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Common Symptoms of Food Poisoning

5 min read

By Clarissa Vanner

Medically Reviewed by Patty Weasler, RN

Food contamination can happen during growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping, and preparing which can make it hard to determine the root cause. Mayo Clinic explains, “Cross-contamination — the transfer of harmful organisms from one surface to another — is often the cause.” Raw foods like salad and produce are more susceptible to cross-contamination because they aren’t cooked before eating which means harmful organisms won’t be destroyed. This can lead to food poisoning.

So how do you know if you have food poisoning? Symptoms of food poisoning can begin between a few hours to several days after eating contaminated food. The most common symptom is feeling sick but there are other symptoms too. Follow along as we explore some of the most common symptoms of food poisoning that you should be on the lookout for.


Most people who get food poisoning experience diarrhea. Diarrhea consists of watery, loose, and possibly more frequent bowel movements. It generally occurs at least three or more times in a 24-hour period.

Healthline explains, “It occurs as inflammation makes your bowel less effective at reabsorbing the water and other fluids it secretes during digestion.” It’s important to note, that diarrhea can make you lose more fluid than normal which can put you at risk for dehydration. Even though you feel unwell make sure you continue to drink water and sip on liquids like broths and soup to stay hydrated.


Feeling nauseous is never fun and it leaves you feeling like you’re about to vomit. Nausea can be a symptom of many different reasons like motion sickness, eating too much, or having a migraine, but it is also a common symptom of food poisoning.

Nausea caused by food poisoning will generally start around one to eight hours after eating. It acts as a warning sign to let your body know you recently consumed something that is possibly harmful. If you’re feeling nauseous, check out these natural remedies to soothe nausea.


Not only will you likely feel nauseous with food poisoning, but vomiting is also a common symptom. You may even experience a short period of projectile vomiting at the beginning. Healthline explains, “This happens when your abdominal muscles and diaphragm contract strongly, forcing you to involuntarily bring up the contents of your stomach and pass them out through your mouth.”

Vomiting is a protective mechanism that happens when your body is trying to get rid of the toxins in your body. Some people experience periodic episodes of vomiting while it subsides for others.

It’s worth noting, vomiting can lead to dehydration. Be sure to monitor your urine color. Anything darker than light yellow or clear could indicate dehydration. If you can’t keep fluids down, seek medical attention to avoid dehydration.

Abdominal Pain

If you get food poisoning, harmful organisms can produce toxins that then irritate the lining of your stomach and intestines. When this happens, it can cause painful inflammation in your stomach which then leads to pain in your abdomen. This is often felt around the trunk of your body, or the section below your ribs and above your pelvis.

In addition to abdominal pain, you may also experience cramping. This happens when the abdominal muscles contract in an effort to speed up the natural movements of your bowl to get rid of the harmful organisms. It’s worth noting, not everyone who gets food poisoning will experience abdominal pain or cramping but it is a common symptom you can expect.


You may also experience chills when you have food poisoning. Chills can happen when your body temperature rises causing your body to shiver.

Shivering occurs because your muscles are rapidly contracting and relaxing in order to generate heat. Chills often go along with a fever because pyrogens make your body think it’s cold and now needs to warm up. Let’s explore fever next.


Another common symptom of food poisoning is fever. This happens if your body’s temperature rises higher than normal body temperature which is between 97.6-degrees Fahrenheit and 99.6-degrees Fahrenheit.

Pyrogens trigger the rise in body temperature when your immune system releases them or when infectious bacteria enters your body. Fevers are common in many illnesses because it’s a response to your body’s natural defense system against infection. Increased body temperature increases your white blood cells to help you fight off the infection.

If you experience a fever as a result of food poisoning, then check out these natural fever relievers to help you get some relief.


It’s very common for people to experience headaches. They happen for a variety of reasons from stress, lack of sleep, dehydration, and more. Food poisoning may cause you to become dehydrated and fatigued, both of which can lead to a headache.

Two common symptoms of food poisoning, diarrhea, and vomiting, can increase your risk of dehydration and in turn, make you prone to a headache. If you do experience a headache, you can give these home remedies a try.

Fatigue and Weakness

Fatigue and feeling weak are both common symptoms of food poisoning. They happen because the body releases chemical messengers known as cytokines.

Furthermore, food poisoning can cause you to eat less as a result of a loss of appetite and this can also make you feel tired and weak. These symptoms also help your body rest in order to get better. With this in mind, if you are feeling tired and weak as a result of food poisoning make sure you listen to your body and get plenty of rest.

Muscle Aches

Another symptom of food poisoning is muscle aches. This can happen as a result of inflammation caused by your immune system.

When this happens, your body releases histamine which is a chemical that helps widen your blood vessels to allow more white blood cells through. This helps fight the infection. This process can also make some parts of your body more sensitive to pain resulting in dull aches.

When to See a Doctor

The good news is that food poisoning usually only lasts for about one to two days and symptoms can often resolve on their own. That said if your symptoms last longer than that, then you should contact your doctor.

There are other serious symptoms you should be on the lookout for too. This includes bloody vomit or stool, diarrhea for more than three days, extreme abdominal pain, signs or symptoms of dehydration, fever of 102-degrees Fahrenheit or higher, blurry vision, muscle weakness, or tingling arms. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms contact your doctor immediately.


Patty is a freelance health writer and nurse (BSN, CCRN). She has worked as a critical care nurse for over 10 years and loves educating people about their health. When she's not working, Patty enjoys any outdoor activity that she can do with her husband and three kids.

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