What medicine is there to treat food poisoning?
Originally Published: December 7, 2001 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: November 24, 2010
What medicine should we take for food poisoning?
Often times the best medicine for food poisoning is rest and plenty of fluids. However some food poisoning can be severe or dangerous, and requires the attention of a health care provider. Food poisoning is usually caused by bacteria, which in turn cause vomiting and/or diarrhea. Other culprits may include bacterial toxins, viruses, parasites, poisonous mushrooms, other natural poisons, and other harmful chemicals. Mild food poisoning can be cared for at home while the illness runs its course, usually taking anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.
When someone has food poisoning, rest and drinking plenty of fluids, rather than medication, is the prescription. Taking small, frequent sips of clear liquids helps prevent dehydration. Oral rehydration solutions containing electrolytes that replenish what the body loses through vomiting and diarrhea are sometimes suggested. If only sports drinks are available, dilute them with water since the sugar in these drinks can worsen diarrhea.
In addition, health care providers usually discourage people from using medication to prevent and/or stop the vomiting or diarrhea. Although unpleasant, the body's natural response of ridding itself of the virus or bacteria that causes symptoms is effective. Since food poisoning usually simply needs to run its course, food poisoning caused by bacteria typically doesn't require antibiotics.
Individuals who are at high risk for dehydration or have underdeveloped or weakened immune systems (babies, children under three-years-old, older adults, and people with severe or chronic health conditions, i.e., HIV/AIDS, cancer and chemotherapy, or kidney disease), should consult with their health care provider if they think they have food poisoning.
Also, a health care provider needs to be contacted immediately when a person:
· has a fever of over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
· has diarrhea for more than 24 hours
· vomits for more than 12 hours
· has not kept fluids down for at least 12 hours
· has serious muscle cramping
· has bloody diarrhea
· has dry mouth or sticky saliva
· does not urinate or has dark urine
· has dizziness
· is confused
· has increased heart rate and/or problems breathing
· is suspected of being poisoned by botulism
Potentially fatal, botulism, which is food poisoning produced by certain spores in food, is especially common in insufficiently sterilized or badly sealed home-canned goods. Symptoms show up usually between 12 and 36 hours after eating contaminated food and may include headache, blurred vision, muscle weakness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, urinary retention, reduced salivation, and/or eventual paralysis.So back to your question: for mild food poisoning, medication is unnecessary, and for those at high risk or who could have botulism, immediate medical attention is critical. Students at Columbia may call x4-2284 or log-in to Open Communicator to make an appointment with a health care provider.