Content Supplied by NHS Choices


Food poisoning can usually be treated at home without seeking medical advice. Most people will feel better within a few days.

Food poisoning can usually be treated at home without seeking medical advice. Most people will feel better within a few days.

It's important to avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water, even if you can only sip it, as you need to replace any fluids lost through vomiting and diarrhoea.

You should also:

  • rest as much as possible
  • eat when you feel up to it – sticking to small, light and non-fatty meals at first (bland foods such as toast, crackers, rice and bananas are good choices)
  • avoid alcohol, caffeine, fizzy drinks and spicy and fatty foods because they may make you feel worse

Contact your GP if your symptoms are severe or don't start to improve in a few days.

Preventing the spread of infection

If you have food poisoning, you shouldn't prepare food for other people and you should try to keep contact with vulnerable people, such as the elderly or very young, to a minimum.

Stay off work or school until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea.

If someone you live with has food poisoning, you should:

  • make sure everyone in your household (including yourself) washes their hands with soap and warm water regularly – particularly after going to the toilet and before and after preparing food
  • clean surfaces, toilet seats, flush handles, basins and taps frequently
  • make sure everyone has their own towels and flannels
  • wash the laundry of the infected person on the hottest washing machine setting

Read more about preventing germs from spreading.

Oral rehydration solution (ORS)

Oral rehydration solutions (ORS) are recommended for people vulnerable to the effects of dehydration, such as the elderly and those with a pre-existing health condition.

ORSs are available in sachets from pharmacies. You dissolve them in water to drink and they help replace salt, glucose and other important minerals your body loses through dehydration.

If you have a kidney condition, some types of oral rehydration salts may not be suitable for you. Ask your pharmacist or GP for further advice about this.

Further treatment

If your symptoms are severe or persistent, or you are more vulnerable to serious infection (for example, because you are elderly or have an underlying health condition), you may need further treatment.

Tests may be carried out on a stool sample to find out what it causing your symptoms and antibiotics may be prescribed if the results show you have a bacterial infection.

Medication to stop you vomiting (anti-emetics) may also be prescribed if your vomiting is particularly severe.

In some cases, you may need to be admitted to hospital for a few days so you can be monitored and given fluids directly into a vein (intravenously).

Content Supplied by NHS Choices


The best way to avoid getting food poisoning is to ensure you maintain high standards of personal and food hygiene when storing, handling and preparing food.

The best way to avoid getting food poisoning is to ensure you maintain high standards of personal and food hygiene when storing, handling and preparing food.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommends remembering the "four Cs":

  • cleaning
  • cooking
  • chilling
  • cross-contamination (avoiding it)

It's also recommended that you stick to a food’s "use by" date and the storage instructions on the packet.

These steps are important because things such as a food's appearance and smell aren't a reliable way of telling if it's safe to eat.


You can prevent the spread of harmful bacteria and viruses by maintaining good personal hygiene standards and keeping work surfaces and utensils clean.

Regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water, particularly:

  • after going to the toilet or changing a baby's nappy
  • before preparing food
  • after handling raw food
  • after touching bins or pets

You shouldn't handle food if you are ill with stomach problems, such as diarrhoea or vomiting or you have any uncovered sores or cuts.


It's important to cook food thoroughly, particularly meat and most types of seafood, to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present.

Make sure the food is cooked thoroughly and is steaming hot in the middle. To check that meat is cooked, insert a knife into the thickest or deepest part. It is fully cooked if the juices are clear and there is no pink or red meat. Some meat, such as steaks and joints of beef or lamb, can be served rare (not cooked in the middle), as long as the outside has been cooked properly.

When reheating food, make sure it is steaming hot all the way through. Don't reheat food more than once.


Certain foods need to be kept at the correct temperature to prevent harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Always check the storage instructions on the label.

If food has to be refrigerated, make sure your fridge is set to 0–5C (32–41F).

If food that needs to be chilled is left at room temperature, bacteria can grow and multiply to dangerous levels.

Cooked leftovers should be cooled quickly, ideally within a couple of hours, and put in your fridge or freezer.


Cross-contamination is when bacteria are transferred from foods (usually raw foods) to other foods.

This can occur when one food touches or drips onto another food, or when bacteria on your hands, work surfaces, equipment or utensils are spread to food.

To prevent cross-contamination:

  • always wash your hands after handling raw food
  • store raw and ready-to-eat foods separately
  • store raw meat in sealable containers at the bottom of your fridge so that it cannot drip onto other foods
  • use a different chopping board for raw food and ready-to-eat food, or wash it thoroughly in between preparing different types of food
  • clean knives and other utensils thoroughly after using them with raw food
  • do not wash raw meat or poultry – any harmful bacteria will be killed by thorough cooking, and washing may splash harmful bacteria around the kitchen

Share this page