Home based treatment

This is the most popular form of treatment for food poisoning. Food poisoning is a ‘self-limiting’illness which means that it has a set period before the symptoms disappear.

For example salmonella coli food poisoning: the symptoms appear between 12 to 72 hours, last for up to a week and then disappear.

Food poisoning can range from mild to severe. This section looks at home treatment for mild cases of food poisoning.

Severe cases will require medical treatment which is discussed in a separate section.


This refers to a series of measures which you can take to treat the symptoms of food poisoning.

If you have developed food poisoning then do the following:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink lots of fluids
  • Use an oral re-hydration powder
  • Eat plain foods
  • Prevent this illness from spreading


Food poisoning often causes tiredness or fatigue, usually as a result of fever, chills plus vomiting and diarrhoea. So get as much rest as you need during this time.

The effects of food poisoning are more dramatic than you realise.


The main problem with food poisoning is dehydration. Dehydration is a condition where there is an excessive amount of fluid loss. This depletion of fluids includes a reduction in levels of essential minerals such as sodium and potassium which are vital for the normal functioning of the body.

Dehydration can be caused by a variety of illnesses which includes diabetes, numerous fevers and food poisoning.

So, it is important that you replace any fluids that have been lost as a result of vomiting and/or diarrhoea.

Take small sips of water rather than gulping down large amounts and avoid sugary or fizzy drinks (e.g. cola). Do not touch alcohol or caffeine during this time.

Oral re-hydration therapy

This is the name given to special powders which are purchased at a local pharmacy which contain electrolytes. They are designed to replace fluids lost during illnesses such as food poisoning and are easy to use.

These powders –often known as ‘oral re-hydration salts’–are designed to be dissolved in water. They are an ideal way of replacing salts, sugars etc which have become depleted due to your illness.

Ask your pharmacist’s advice if you have an underlying medical condition such as a kidney disorder before using them. Also ask for advice if you are thinking of re-hydration salts for your child.

Another option is sports drinks. There are various brands of sports drinks which contain electrolytes – often marketed as ‘isotonic’, that are designed for fluid replacement. They are used by sportspeople before, during and after exercise but may be suitable for people looking to replace fluids following an illness.

You will have to try a few of these before finding the right one for you. Some people find that they are too sweet but there are brands you can purchase which can be diluted or are less sugary than others.

Do not try and make your own re-hydration drinks as you will be unable to include the exact amount of minerals needed for replacement. There is a set formula for these which has been devised by experts and is only available via these powders.

Oral re-hydration powders are recommended for the elderly, young children and anyone who has an underlying medical condition. They can be bought over the counter at a chemist or are also available on prescription.

Plain foods

Food will be the last thing you want but once your symptoms have stabilised it is a good idea to have something to eat albeit gradually. Choose plain or bland foods such as crackers, dry toast, bread, bananas etc and avoid fried, fatty food.

Thin soups are another good choice.

It is a good idea to avoid dairy foods as these can worsen the symptoms. Plus some people are lactose intolerant so drinking milk or consuming milk based foods will worsen this.

Eat little and often until your appetite has returned to normal. Do this to give your stomach a chance to ease before re-introducing large meals. Your stomach may feel a bit bruised during this time so allow it time to settle.

If you start to feel sick then stop eating until it passes. Have small amounts and continue with this until you feel able to eat a normal sized meal.

What about anti-diarrhoeal medications?

There are a range of anti-diarrhoea medicines available such as ‘Imodium’ but check before using them. These are not suitable for children but ask your GP or pharmacist for advice.

But, you can take paracetamol or ibuprofen if you have a fever, aches and pains or a headache.

Prevent further spread

Food poisoning is a contagious type of illness so ensure that it does spread to anyone else. This is especially important if you have children or anyone in your family is a ‘high risk’.

By ‘high risk’we mean that they fall into a vulnerable group, for example, the elderly or babies and young children. People with a compromised immune system due to an illness or cancer treatment are also at risk.

Here are a few ways to stop food poisoning from spreading:

  • Wash your hands after each visit to the toilet and particularly before handling food.
  • Do not prepare or cook food for anyone else during your illness (you will probably not feel like doing so!).
  • If your child has food poisoning then keep them off school or away from nursery until their illness has cleared.

These measures should be enough to treat food poisoning without the need for medical attention. But if your food poisoning persists; appears to be getting worse or you fall into a ‘high risk’group then see your GP.

Food Poisoning Guide

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