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How Long Can Food Poisoning Last?

Posted in Food Safety on August 29, 2022

Food poisoning is unpleasant, and symptoms can begin in as little as 30 minutes from when you consumed the contaminated food or beverage, but how long do they last? Most cases pass within 12 to 48 hours, but some can last a week or longer, depending on the source of the illness.

Types of Food Poisoning and How Long They Last

How long food poisoning will last in your case depends on which microorganism infected you. Here are some time frames for the most common types of infections:

Norovirus

Symptoms begin 12 to 48 hours after exposure and last 1-2 days.

Staphylococcus aureus (Staph)

Symptoms begin within 30 minutes to 8 hours after exposure and usually last no longer than one day.

E.Coli

Symptoms begin 3-4 days after exposure and last 5-10 days.

Salmonella

Symptoms begin 6 hours to 6 days after exposure and last 4-7 days.

Listeria

Symptoms begin within 2 weeks after exposure and last 1-3 days.

Common Food Poisoning Symptoms

Food poisoning symptoms can vary based on the contaminate, but people most commonly experience a combination of:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain or cramping
  • Vomiting
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Fever

Rare side effects include:

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • High fever (above 102°F)
  • Muscle aches
  • Blurred vision
  • Skin rash/itching

When to See a Doctor

While many food poisoning cases do not require medical treatment, you should see a doctor if you suffer from more severe symptoms, such as a fever of 100.4 or higher, bloody diarrhea, or blurred vision. People with compromised immune systems, pregnant women, and older people are at higher risk and should always see a doctor for food poisoning. Additionally, if your illness does not improve within a few days, an appointment with your general physician should be scheduled to be safe.

Causes of Food Poisoning

The germs that often cause food poisoning can be found on a variety of foods and food sources, but some common culprits include:

  • Food that is handled in an unsafe way by an already sick individual
  • Food that has been cross-contaminated by raw or other contaminated foods
  • Raw and undercooked meats
  • Poultry
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Unpasteurized (raw) milk and dairy products
  • Unwashed leafy greens and fresh fruits
  • Improperly stored or canned foods
  • Nuts
  • Spices
  • Contaminated water

Reduce Your Risk for Food Poisoning

There is no surefire way to prevent food poisoning, but you can lower your chances of it by preparing meals safely and keeping food safety in mind when dining out or traveling.

  • Wash your hands. Always wash your hands with soap before cooking and between cooking different dishes. Wash them after you change diapers, blow your nose, touch animals, or go to the bathroom.
  • Ensure food is cooked through. When preparing raw meat, use a thermometer to track the internal temperature of the food you cook.
  • Avoid cross-contamination. Wash utensils you use to cook and kitchen surfaces in between preparing different dishes and once you are done.
  • Clean produce. Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating them.
  • Avoid drinking unpasteurized milk.
  • Store food properly. Your refrigerator should be colder than 40 degrees, and your freezer below 0 degrees.

As a general rule, food should never sit out at room temperature longer than two hours.