Food Poisoning Symptoms in Kids

Children's Health

Sep 23, 2021


Knowing how to tell the food poisoning symptoms in kids versus symptoms of a stomach bug can help parents know how to treat their children. Despite only lasting a few days, food poisoning can be unkind to both children and adults alike.

Your child has food poisoning if they have symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea that come on within hours after eating and lasts for only a couple of days. The best thing you can do is make sure that they get plenty of snuggles, rest, and fluids.

To help you better understand food poisoning in kids, below are some symptoms to watch for and guidelines for when to seek medical care.

What is food poisoning?

Food-borne illness, otherwise known as food poisoning, is extremely common. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 6 Americans suffers from food poisoning every year. Though that doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable for your little one. The most common cause of food-borne illness is eating contaminated food.

There are various types of bacteria, viruses, and toxins that can cause food poisoning including:

  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Salmonella
  • E. coli 0157
  • Shigella
  • Campylobacter
  • Clostridium perfringens +  botulinum
  • Hepatitis A
  • Bacillus cereus
  • Norwalk virus

When you eat or drink food that’s been contaminated with one of the germs listed above, they release poisonous toxins into your system triggering symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea. 

Food poisoning symptoms

The first food poisoning symptoms in kids can appear within hours after eating. Different germs and toxins cause different types of symptoms but they generally cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Food poisoning symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Low-grade fever
  • Upset stomach
  • Cramps in the lower abdomen
  • Overall weakness
  • Headache

If you feel unsure of what to watch for or you need peace of mind, never hesitate to take your child to an urgent care facility.

Continue reading: When to Go to the ER For Fevers in Children

How long does food poisoning last in a child?

Wondering how long does food poisoning last? In most cases, food-borne illness will get better with little to no treatment in 1 to 10 days. If you do not notice symptoms improving, your pediatrician may prescribe antibiotics to help your child’s body fight the infection.

The length of time it takes to recover from a bout of food poisoning will depend on which type of bacteria or virus your child was infected with, how much of it they ingested, and how severe their symptoms have been. More often than not, your kiddo will back to normal within a day or two without needing medical care.

Food poisoning treatment for your child

When your child has food poisoning you’ll want to ensure that they get plenty of rest and fluids to prevent dehydration. Try giving your infant small amounts of Pedialyte, breast milk, or formula. For older babies and kids, offer them water or other flavored drinks mixed with water. Do your best to steer clear of milk, caffeine, and other sugary or carbonated drinks.

In the first couple of hours, you’ll want to refrain from giving them any food. Once their stomach has calmed down, start slow and offer them some bland foods like toast or crackers.

Keep in mind that vomiting and diarrhea are the body’s way of getting rid of germs. Avoid giving your child any medications that stop diarrhea. Doing so can prolong the healing process and could cause serious side effects. You should seek medical attention at urgent care for diarrhea when you notice symptoms of dehydration.

When to call the doctor for food poisoning symptoms in kids

Seek immediate medical attention if your child’s condition has not improved after 24-hours or if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Bloody vomit or stools
  • Intense stomach cramps not resolved through pooping
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling in limbs
  • Blurred vision
  • Breathing problems
  • Diarrhea combined with a fever over 101 F
  • Throwing up for more than 12 hours

If your child isn’t holding down fluids and shows signs of dehydration, they may need to be taken to the ER to receive IV fluids for dehydration. This will help replenish lost fluids as well as electrolytes like sodium and potassium.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Infrequent urination
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Lack of tears when crying
  • Dry, cool skin
  • Confusion
  • Extreme thirst
  • Sunken eyes
  • Soft spot on infants head appears sunken in
  • No energy

Complete Care 24-hour emergency room services for you and the family

If your child has food poisoning and isn’t showing improvement after 24-hours, let us help you. We have convenient, freestanding emergency rooms in both Texas and Colorado, all equipped with hospital-grade technology and friendly medical staff that can handle food poisoning symptoms in kids with low wait times.

We are here for you and your family in your time of need. Head into one of our ER locations or give us a call today!

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