Everyone has had a bad experience with food before, but can you tell the difference between an upset stomach and food poisoning? Knowing the signs and symptoms of food poisoning is the first step toward recovering and staying out of the hospital. If you know the signs, you may even be able to help out a friend or family member who’s suffering without knowledge of what’s wrong. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most common food poisoning symptoms and tips on how to cope with them to help get you through a miserable time.

The Symptoms

The most common symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration

Treatment of these symptoms typically focuses on hydration because the vomiting and diarrhea quickly deplete necessary nutrients and electrolytes in your body. If you suspect you have food poisoning, begin drinking water and sports drinks regularly to replenish those electrolytes. Water and sports drinks should be sipped, not chugged, to avoid making the vomiting worse. Most cases of food poisoning can be treated at home and go away within a few days, but if you continue to feel dehydrated, you should seek medical attention right away. Out of nearly 48 million cases of food poisoning each year, only 128,000 people are hospitalized. The majority of those hospitalizations are due to severe dehydration and lack of nutrients in the body. Food poisoning is not contagious, but you should notify the restaurant that you believe gave you the food poisoning, so they can take proper steps to prevent further cases.

Prevention is Key

Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to food poisoning. While it may not always be detectable, there are certain things you can look for before dining somewhere to help prevent potential food poisoning. If a restaurant appears dirty, you notice staff not washing hands, or the food preparation area looks unclean, it’s best to find a new spot to eat. Sometimes those things can’t be seen from the dining table, which is usually how people contract food poisoning.
If you suspect you have food poisoning, you should monitor your temperature and watch for bloody stool. If you notice these symptoms, seek medical attention as your case is likely too severe to resolve on its own. It’s always a good idea to read reviews online before trying a new restaurant and post about your personal experience to warn others as well.