How Long Does Food Poisoning Last?

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Food poisoning generally occurs when a person eats or drinks something contaminated. It is often non-fatal and typically lasts for one or two days. Occasionally, food poisoning resolves independently, but some may need medication. Pregnant women, children and older adults have to be wary of food poisoning as it might affect them with a higher magnitude than others. 

Food Poisoning

Food poison is when toxic substances enter the body through food. When a person eats food contaminated with poisonous organisms, the body reacts to get rid of them, resulting in the person falling sick. It will resolve independently when the body returns to health once the toxins are out. Uncooked fruits, vegetables, dairy products and uncooked Meat most commonly cause food poisoning. The pathogens in the food get killed in the heat while cooking, whereas in raw food, they remain as they are. The pathogens present in food include, 

  • Bacteria
  • Virus
  • Parasite
  • Fungus
  • Poison
  • Moulds


Food can become contaminated anywhere, from harvesting to reaching the plate. Pathogens are almost always present in uncooked food but don’t usually survive during cooking. There are several ways that a pathogen can enter the food, 

  • Unpasteurized dairy products and fruit juices
  • Raw or under-cooked egg, poultry or Meat. 
  • Fecal matter that remains in the hand due to improper hand washing
  • Food which is not refrigerated properly. 
  • Meat and raw fruits and vegetables that are store-cut and packed are called Deli Food. 
  • Ready-to-eat and processed food like packaged egg rolls or burritos. 
  • Foods that have yet to be packed and sealed correctly.
  • Unclean kitchen utensils and area.
  • Drinking water may also be contaminated.

Types of Food Poisoning

Food Poisoning due to Bacteria : 

Bacteria is the most common reason for food poisoning. They multiply when the food temperature is between 40-140 degrees. Cooking the food thoroughly usually destroys all the bacteria, and refrigerating food might slow the growth. Some of the common bacteria found in food are,

  • Campylobacter: This bacteria is mainly found in food animals like pigs, cows, poultry, goats, etc.; they survive in warm-blooded animals and also shellfish. Campylobacteria enter the body when the meat and by-products of these animals are consumed raw, undercooked or poorly processed. They are also present in unpasteurized milk and water sources. This bacteria can survive in the body for weeks, and the symptoms can last up to 6 days. Common symptoms of campylobacter are headache, diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, fever and abdominal pain
  • Escherichia coli (E. Coli): This is a type of bacteria that lives in the intestines of animals and humans. It is usually harmless and aids in the digestion of food. However, E. Coli strains found in uncooked Meat, raw vegetables and unpasteurized milk produce a toxin called Shiga toxin. Shiga toxin can be harmful to the body as they cause damage to the lining of the intestine. Elders, children, and people who travel are more susceptible to getting E. Coli. Mild symptoms are diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach ache and fever. Complications in E. Coli are infrequent as it usually resolves on its own in a day or two. 
  • Salmonella: Salmonella is a type of bacteria that affects the small intestine. It is found in uncooked or undercooked turkey, chicken, eggs and other poultry. They also exist in raw fruits, nuts, vegetables, unpasteurized milk and contaminated water sources. Birds and reptiles can act as a carrier for this bacteria. The symptoms often include cramps, fever, chills, diarrhoea, muscle pain, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and bloody stool. There is no particular medication, as taking antibiotics would retain the bacteria in the body. It is advised to take adequate fluids and electrolytes.
  • Listeria: Listeria, or listeriosis, is caused by the Listeria monocytogenes. It is present in soft cheese, unpasteurized milk, deli meats, raw sprouts and vegetables. Listeriosis is not fatal in most healthy people, but it might cause severe complications in pregnant women, children and people with weak immunity. Symptoms of Listeria are nausea, headache, body ache, vomiting, fatigue and diarrhoea. The symptoms might last up to five days. 
  • Shigella: Shigellosis is the infection caused by the bacterium called Shigella. This bacteria releases toxins which irritate the intestines. Shigellosis is caused and spread through raw meat and vegetables, contaminated water, shellfish, tuna, and, most commonly, contaminated faeces. Shigellosis spreads when a person is exposed to the infected person’s faeces by coming in contact with items that the infected person has contaminated. The symptoms of shigellosis include fever, vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea with blood or mucus and abdominal pain. 
  • Staphylococcus aureus: Staphylococcus aureus, commonly called a staph infection, occurs when people pass on this bacteria from hand to mouth. Foods that require much handling and those stored at room temperature are prone to staph infection. Foods contaminated by staph are often meats, dairy products, poultry and salads. The symptoms usually include vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea and abdominal cramping. 

Food Poisoning due to virus:

  • Rotavirus: Rotavirus is more common among children than adults. Adults are more immune to it; it is less severe even if contracted. The symptoms start within two days and can last up to a week, and the infection can remain in the stool for ten days even after the symptoms go away. Common symptoms of rotavirus are vomiting, severe fatigue and severe watery diarrhoea. As children tend to fall prey to this virus more, dehydration is the primary concern.
  • Norovirus: Norovirus is a stomach and intestinal infection that is very contagious. It can survive outside the body for several days, and an infected person can spread the virus to a healthy person for up to two weeks, even after the symptoms subside. It mainly spreads through food or direct or indirect contact with an infected person. The common symptoms of norovirus are vomiting and watery diarrhoea. The symptoms start within a day and can last up to three days. There is no particular medicine for this virus; rehydration is the primary key to recovery.
  • Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is a contagious virus that spreads through contaminated water and food. One can also contact the virus directly or indirectly with an infected person. This virus causes liver inflammation. In comparison, children under six show almost no symptoms; older children, teens, and adults have flu-like symptoms, jaundice, abdominal pain and cramps, dark-coloured urine, and light-coloured stool. The best way to avoid the virus is by getting a Hepatitis A vaccine; the next option is to let it pass independently and remain hydrated. 
  • Astrovirus: Astrovirus is very common among kids. Adults older than sixty-five and those with low immunity are more susceptible to this virus. There is no particular medication for astrovirus. Staying hydrated is essential to speedy recovery, as the main symptom is diarrhoea, vomiting and fever. It is highly contagious, and people living in the same family often end up being sick one by one. It is possible to avoid the infection by maintaining good hygiene.
  • Sapovirus: Sapovirus is closely related to astrovirus as the symptoms are similar. Children are affected by this virus in a higher magnitude. The most common symptom of this virus is vomiting and diarrhoea, which generally resolves on its own in a week. In some cases, the virus is asymptomatic yet highly contagious. Adequate intake of fluids and electrolytes is crucial to recovery.  

What to Indulge and Avoid

Having adequate fluids and bland and easily digestible foods is recommended when suffering from food poisoning. The following foods may help during the infection. 

  • Toast
  • Bananas
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Bland potatoes
  • Boiled vegetables
  • Chicken broth
  • Diluted fruit juices

Certain foods should be avoided as they can aggravate the symptoms of the infection. The following foods are some of the examples,

  • Dairy products
  • Fatty foods
  • Fried foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Foods that are high in sugar
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine


Food poisoning is a common infection caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, and fungi. It is highly contagious and can rarely turn out to be fatal. Food poisoning typically lasts up to a week and, in most cases, can be resolved by staying hydrated and compensating for the lost electrolytes, as vomiting and diarrhoea are the main symptoms. Maintaining proper hygiene after contracting the infection is essential, as it is highly contagious and can spread even after a week of having no symptoms. If symptoms persist for more than three days, visiting a doctor is recommended. 


1. What is the first sign of food poisoning?

Stomach cramps and diarrhoea are the first symptoms of food poisoning. They occur within six hours of contact with the pathogen. 

2. How long does food poisoning last?

Usually, food poisoning lasts for one or two days. But in some cases, it may even last up to a week, depending on what pathogen the person has contracted. 

3. What to eat during food poisoning?

It is essential to take adequate fluids and electrolytes as a person with food poisoning would lose water content in the body quickly and is susceptible to dehydration. It is also advised to take bland foods as the stomach is vulnerable. 

4. What is the main reason for food poison?

The leading cause of food poisoning is bacteria in food. Bacteria might enter the food at any stage, from when the food is harvested to when the food is in the market to when the food is cooked and even when a person cooks or eats the food with unwashed hands.

5. Is food poisoning fatal in children?

Not all kinds of food poisoning are fatal. Most of them resolve on their own, and some with medication. Children contract germs quickly and are more susceptible. They also get dehydrated at a faster rate than adults. Both these reasons can turn out to be fatal in children. 


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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