Food Poisoning: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

The CDC estimates that 76 million people suffer from food poisoning annually. With barbeques, picnics, and other food-related activities being more prevalent during the summer months, your risks of food poisoning heighten.

Food poisoning, also known as foodborne illness, occurs when you eat contaminated food. Food can become contaminated at any point—growing, harvesting, processing, storage, shipping, or preparing.  Contamination is more likely to happen in uncooked food because harmful organisms aren’t destroyed by the high temperatures of cooking. Many people assume raw meat is the only thing to be wary of, but any type of uncooked foods like fruits, leafy greens, and dairy products are more likely to be contaminated.


The majority of food poisoning is caused by three major factors: bacteria, parasites, and viruses.

1. Bacteria

Hazardous bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, and C. botulinum are all common causes of food poisoning. The CDC states that about 1,000,000 cases of food poisoning yearly can be traced back to salmonella, including around 20,000 hospitalizations.

2. Parasites

Although less common than bacteria, parasites in food are also a dangerous cause of food poisoning. Parasites can live in a digestive tract for years without being detected. Toxoplasma is the parasite most often seen in food poisoning cases, through contamination of raw meat or water.

3. Viruses

The Norwalk virus, or norovirus, is responsible for more than 19 million food poisoning cases each year. Hepatitis A virus, astrovirus, sapovirus, and rotavirus are also viruses that can be transmitted through food and cause mild to severe illness. 


Usually, symptoms occur within hours or days of eating the food, but in certain cases signs may develop weeks later.

Symptoms of food poisoning:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Watery or bloody stool
  • Abdominal pain and cramps

Anyone can get food poisoning, but people with compromised immune systems are at higher risk of the illness becoming severe and sometimes life-threatening.

You should visit the ER if you experience:

  • Diarrhea for more than 3 days
  • Fever higher than 101.5 degrees
  • Trouble speaking or seeing
  • Bloody urine
  • Severe dehydration 


If you have food poisoning, it’s best to eat bland foods that won’t disrupt your digestion more. A safe guideline to follow is the BRAT diet: Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast.

Five other foods that can help ease you back into eating are:

  1. Saltine crackers
  2. Oatmeal
  3. Chicken broth
  4. Non-caffeinated soda
  5. Sport drinks

What to avoid:

  • fatty foods
  • dairy
  • spicy or heavily seasoned foods
  • fried foods
  • nicotine
  • caffeine
  • alcohol

If you or a loved one come down with a bout of food poisoning, we’re here to help. We offer IV fluids for dehydration, tests, and medications to help ease the severity of symptoms. Open 24/7, 365 days a year, our facility provides premiere services for any type of medical emergency.

Disclaimer: As a service to our readers, Texarkana Emergency Center and Nutex Health state no content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.

Nutex Health, Inc supports you and your family’s health. You can depend on Texarkana Emergency Center, or any of our concierge-level medical facilities to deliver the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.