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Salmonella Food Poisoning Symptoms: Gastroenteritis and More

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Gerard Tamayo · Updated Jan 22, 2023

Salmonella Food Poisoning Symptoms: Gastroenteritis and More

Salmonella infections, also known as salmonellosis, usually occur after eating meat, chicken, dairy, eggs, or products made from eggs that may be raw or undercooked.  Once ingested, the salmonella bacteria passes through the stomach and can colonize the small and large intestine. In very rare cases (approximately 5% of all salmonella infections), the salmonella can actually spread to the blood, potentially damaging any organ within the body. A salmonella infection can manifest as a mild stomach flu to an infection with life-threatening complications. For this reason, it is important to be familiar with salmonella food poisoning symptoms and how to treat this condition.

Conditions Caused by Salmonella Infections

Salmonella has three clinical forms:

  • Gastroenteritis – When the salmonella infection primarily affects your digestive tract, it is termed gastroenteritis (also known as the stomach flu).
  • Enteric Fevers – This type of salmonella infection is very severe and requires prompt treatment with antibiotics. Enteric fevers may accompany gastroenteritis, or may occur after. The most common and most studied form of enteric fever is known as typhoid fever.
  • Septicemia – When the bacteria spreads to the blood, it is termed septicemia. The spread of salmonella to the blood is very rare. This is due to the fact that most of the patients who are affected with septicemia include infants, young children, the elderly, and patients who have compromised immunity.
  • The Incubation Period of Salmonella Infections

    Salmonella food poisoning symptoms may take a few hours to around 2 days before they manifest. This period of time is known as an incubation period, which is the time it takes for the bacteria to cause symptoms related to the illness.

    Salmonella infections causing enteric fever may take up to three weeks before they develop and manifest.

    Salmonella Food Poisoning Symptoms

    When salmonella passes its incubation period, the following symptoms associated with gastroenteritis may occur:

    • diarrhea (which may or may not be tinged with blood)
    • melena (darkened blood found in the stool)
    • abdominal cramps
    • nausea and vomiting
    • a loss in appetite
    • headaches
    • fever
    • chills

    It is important to note that not all symptoms will be present in patients with salmonellosis. In fact, the major symptom (cardinal symptom) of salmonellosis would be diarrhea, and this can be accompanied by a fever and chills as well.

    The symptoms of salmonella gastroenteritis may last from 4 to 7 days, even without treatment. Diarrhea may persist for up to 10 days.

    salmonella food poisoning symptoms

    Salmonella Enteric Fever Symptoms

    A person infected with salmonella can present with the following symptoms if they have an enteric fever form of the infection:

    • high fever
    • anorexia
    • myalgia (muscle pain)
    • headache
    • constipation or diarrhea

    If the condition is untreated and allowed to progress further, the patient may become delirious, weak, fatigued, in what is known as a “typhoid state.” It is at this point that the patient is at risk for life-threatening complications.

    Signs and symptoms of typhoid fever may recur up to two weeks after the fever has been resolved.

    Salmonella Food Poisoning Symptoms: Septicemia

    Salmonella infections affecting the bloodstream often has symptoms such as an on and off (chronic) fever. Individuals with septicemia may show respiratory symptoms and diarrhea, but this is not so prominent in this form of salmonella infection.

    Salmonella Septicemia: Who Is at Most Risk for Severe Forms of the Disease?

    As mentioned earlier, specific groups of people are at risk of severe salmonella infections. These groups include the very young, very old, and immunocompromised. 

    In particular, those with the following illnesses are at greatest risk of developing severe salmonella:

    • HIV-AIDS
    • cancer (patients taking chemotherapeutics for treatment)

    Certain medical procedures, treatments or conditions may also increase your risk of developing severe salmonella, such as:

    • a splenectomy (removal of the spleen)
    • a non-functioning spleen
    • use of proton pump inhibitors (stomach acid suppression medicine)

    What Symptoms Should I Look Out For?

    If  you notice the following symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible:

    • signs of dehydration
      • oliguria (little or no urine production)
      • dizziness upon standing (orthostatic hypotension)
      • dry mucous membranes (your mouth and/or throat)
    • a fever of 102°F or higher that is accompanied by diarrhea
    • diarrhea that has lasted for 3 or more days with no signs of improvement
    • stool that is tinged with blood
    • nausea and vomiting that prevent you from drinking or keeping liquids in

    Salmonella Food Poisoning Symptoms: Key Takeaways

    Salmonella infections may have very different symptoms. It is important to be able to identify salmonella food poisoning symptoms, as this can help differentiate it from its more severe forms. The more common form of this infection, gastroenteritis, can pass through your system even without treatment, and may only require treatment for dehydration.

    Learn more about Infectious Diseases here.


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

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Gerard Tamayo · Updated Jan 22, 2023

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