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Do's and Don'ts: A Guide to Food Poisoning First Aid

Medically reviewed by Mia Dacumos, MD · Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Lhay Ann Boctoy · Updated Jan 26, 2023

    Do's and Don'ts: A Guide to Food Poisoning First Aid

    Food gives you the energy and strength you need for the day. What’s more, how healthy you are depends, in many ways, on how healthily you eat. That is why it is essential to prepare and handle food properly, to keep it fresh and prevent contamination. If you are not careful, you might consume contaminated food and suffer from foodborne illness, which is more commonly known as food poisoning. In such cases, food poisoning first aid is essential to know.

    What are the Causes of Food Poisoning?

    Food poisoning is caused by eating food contaminated with infectious organisms – these include parasites, viruses, and bacteria.

    Food ingredients can be contaminated during production and food handling. Improper food preparation can also contribute to food contamination. This can happen with undercooked food or through using utensils, knives, or chopping boards for both meat and vegetables. Furthermore, you also run a risk of contamination when food is incorrectly stored in the refrigerator.

    Signs and Symptoms: When Do You Need Food Poisoning First Aid?

    Symptoms of food poisoning may develop within 5 to 72 hours after infection. Although signs and symptoms may vary depending on the source of contamination, the most common symptoms of food poisoning are the following:

    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Stomach pain and cramps
    • Fever or temperature of 37.8C and above
    • Watery or bloody diarrhea

    Anyone suffering from these symptoms is at risk of dehydration.

    Food Poisoning First Aid

    Some symptoms of food poisoning are manageable at home. Here are some steps to take in food poisoning first aid:

    • As nausea and stomach cramps worsen, advise the patient to rest, lie down, and let their stomach settle.
    • If the patient is vomiting, it is important to encourage them to take small sips of water to prevent dehydration.
    • If the patient also suffers from diarrhea, it is even more important to replace lost fluids and salts. Give them ORS (oral rehydration solution) to replenish lost fluids.
    • If the vomiting eases and the patient feels hungry again, advise them to eat bland, light, and easily digested food. Try bananas, toast, or crackers. Steer clear from caffeine, alcohol, or fizzy drinks.
    • Watch over and observe the patient in case the symptoms get worse.

    Reminders: Do not immediately take medications without proper assessment of a doctor/ nurse. Some people would immediately take anti-diarrhea meds, but this may actually worsen the situation.

    For those who might take pain relievers/ paracetamol or anti-spasmodics like Buscopan, they need to be taken with caution as this may mask other symptoms. (This may mask symptoms of appendicitis, which may also present with fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, etc.)

    When You Should See Your Doctor

    Some mild food poisoning conditions can be treated and managed at home. But you need to see the doctor immediately if you see these signs:

    • Nausea and vomiting have lasted for more than 24 hours.
    • The patient is feeling weak alongside severe vomiting and nausea.
    • The patient suffers from any of the food poisoning symptoms accompanied by high fever (exceeding 38 degrees Celsius).
    • He or she is having severe diarrhea that may contain blood.
    • If a person is unable to tolerate any food or water intake, is unable to take even sips of water.

    In case the patient is pregnant, a child, an elderly, or with a compromised immune system, do not wait for 24 hours, and take him or her to an emergency room immediately.

    Key Takeaway

    Food poisoning can be a bad experience for most people. If given the proper first aid and treatment, it may be more manageable, before wearing off after a day or two. But for some, food poisoning can be dangerous or even deadly if not properly treated. To avoid getting food poisoned, make it a habit to check and double check your food, especially if it will be served to a child, an elderly, or a pregnant woman. Observe proper hygiene and keep food preparation stations, utensils, and containers clean. Make sure you and your family enjoy a clean and safe meal.

    Learn more about Infectious Diseases here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mia Dacumos, MD

    Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

    Written by Lhay Ann Boctoy · Updated Jan 26, 2023

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