How Treat Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is often diagnosed based on a detailed history, including how long you’ve been sick, your symptoms and specific foods you’ve eaten. Your doctor will also perform a physical exam, looking for signs of dehydration.

Depending on your symptoms and health history, your doctor may conduct diagnostic tests, such as a blood test, stool culture or examination for parasites, to identify the cause and confirm the diagnosis.

For a stool test, your doctor will send a sample of your stool to a lab, where a technician will try to identify the infectious organism. If an organism is found, your doctor likely will notify your local health department to determine if the food poisoning is linked to an outbreak.

In some cases, the cause of food poisoning can’t be identified.

Treatment for food poisoning typically depends on the source of the illness, if known, and the severity of your symptoms. For most people, the illness resolves without treatment within a few days, though some types of food poisoning may last longer.

Treatment of food poisoning may include:

Replacement of lost fluids. Fluids and electrolytes — minerals such as sodium, potassium and calcium that maintain the balance of fluids in your body — lost to persistent diarrhea need to be replaced. Some children and adults with persistent diarrhea or vomiting may need hospitalization, where they can receive salts and fluids through a vein (intravenously), to prevent or treat dehydration.
Antibiotics. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if you have a certain kind of bacterial food poisoning and your symptoms are severe. Food poisoning caused by listeria needs to be treated with intravenous antibiotics during hospitalization. The sooner treatment begins, the better. During pregnancy, prompt antibiotic treatment may help keep the infection from affecting the baby.

Antibiotics will not help food poisoning caused by viruses. Antibiotics may actually worsen symptoms in certain kinds of viral or bacterial food poisoning. Talk to your doctor about your options.

Adults with diarrhea that isn’t bloody and who have no fever may get relief from taking the medication loperamide (Imodium A-D) or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol). Ask your doctor about these options.

How Long Does It Take To Digest Food?

Digestion time varies between individuals and between men and women. After eating, it takes about six to eight hours for food to pass through the stomach and small intestine. Food then enters your large intestine (colon) for further digestion, water absorption and finally elimination of undigested food. It takes about 36 hours for food to move through the entire colon. All told, the entire process – from the time you swallow food until it leaves your body as feces – takes about two to five days, depending on the individual.

How Long Can You Go Without Food?

Consuming food and water is essential for human life. Your body needs energy from food sources and hydration from water to function properly. The many systems in your body work optimally with a varied diet and adequate daily water intake.

But our bodies can survive for days without water. We can go days or sometimes weeks without food because we adjust our metabolism and energy use.

Why the period varies

Eliminating food intake and water intake for a significant period of time is also called starvation. Your body may starve after a day or two without food or water. At this point, the body begins to function differently to reduce the amount of energy it burns. Eventually, starvation leads to death.

There is no hard and fast “rule of thumb” for how long you can live without food. There is a lack of scientific research on hunger because it is now considered unethical to study hunger in human subjects.

There are some studies that examine old research on hunger and examine more recent occurrences of hunger in the real world. These cases include hunger strikes, religious fasting, and other situations.

These studies have uncovered several observations about hunger:

An article in Archiv Fur Kriminologie states that the body can survive 8 to 21 days without food and water and up to two months if there is access to adequate water intake.

Modern hunger strikes have provided insight into hunger. A study in the British Medical Journal cited several hunger strikes that ended after 21 to 40 days. These hunger strikes ended because of the severe, life-threatening symptoms experienced by the participants.

There appears to be a specific “minimum” number on the body mass index (BMI) scale for survival. According to the journal Nutrition, men with a BMI of less than 13 and women with a BMI of less than 11 cannot sustain life.
An article in the British Medical Journal concludes that those who are normal weight lose a higher percentage of their body weight and muscle tissue faster than those who are obese if they starve to death during the first three days.

According to Nutrition magazine, the body composition of women makes them endure hunger longer.

How is this possible?
Being able to live for days without food or water seems unimaginable to many of us. After all, fasting for days or even going for hours without food and water can leave many of us irritable and low on energy.

Your body actually adapts when you fast for short periods of time or are unable to access food and water for very long periods of time. This allows people to religiously fast and even try “fasting” diets like the Eat-Stop-Eat approach without irreparably damaging their bodies.

It takes about eight hours without eating for your body to change the way it functions. Before that, it functions as if you were eating regularly.

Under normal circumstances, your body breaks down food into glucose. The glucose provides energy for the body.

Once your body has not had access to food for 8 to 12 hours, your glucose stores are depleted. Your body begins to convert glycogen from your liver and muscles into glucose.

After your glucose and glycogen are depleted, your body begins to use amino acids to provide energy. This process affects your muscles and can starve your body for about three days before your metabolism makes a major shift to maintain lean body tissue.

To prevent excessive muscle loss, the body begins to rely on fat stores to create ketones for energy, a process known as ketosis. You will experience significant weight loss during this time. One of the reasons women can go hungry longer than men is because their bodies have a higher fat composition. Women are also able to hold protein and lean muscle tissue better than men during starvation.

The more fat stores available, the longer a person can usually survive during starvation. Once fat stores are fully metabolized, the body returns to muscle breakdown for energy, as it is the only remaining fuel source in the body.

You will experience severe adverse symptoms during starvation when your body is using its muscle reserves for energy. A study in the British Medical Journal states that those who undergo starvation should be closely monitored for severe side effects of starvation after they have lost 10 percent of their body weight. It also says that very serious conditions occur when a person loses 18 percent of their body weight.

Why does water intake affect this?
You are much more likely to starve yourself for weeks – and possibly months – if you can consume a healthy amount of water. Your body has many more reserves to replace food than liquid. Your kidney function will decline within a few days without adequate hydration.

According to one article, those on their deathbeds can survive between 10 and 14 days without food and water. Some longer survival times have been noted, but are less common. Remember that people who are bedridden do not use much energy. A person who is healthy and mobile would likely perish much sooner.

One study that looked at hunger strikes suggested that a person needs to drink at least 1, 5 liters of water per day to survive hunger for an extended period of time. The study also suggested adding half a teaspoon of salt per day to the water to support kidney function.

Side effects and risks of restricted eating
Living without access to food and water can have a detrimental effect on your body. Your body’s many systems begin to deteriorate, even though your body can go on for days and weeks without food and water.

Some of the side effects of starvation include:

  • fainting
  • dizziness
  • drop in blood pressure
  • slowing of the heart rate
  • hypotension
  • weakness
  • dehydration
  • thyroid dysfunction
  • abdominal pain
  • low potassium
  • fluctuation of body temperature
  • post-traumatic stress or depression
  • heart attack
  • organ failure

Those who experience prolonged starvation cannot immediately begin to eat normal amounts of food. The body must be eased back into eating very slowly to avoid side effects known as refeeding syndrome, including:

  • heart disease
  • neurological conditions
  • swelling of the body tissues

Resuming eating after starvation requires the supervision of a physician and may include cooked vegetables, lactose-free foods, and a low-protein, low-sugar diet.

The human body is quite resilient and can function for days and weeks without proper food and water. This is not to say that going without food for an extended period of time is healthy or should be practiced.

Your body can sustain itself for a week or two without access to food and water and possibly even longer if you consume water. Those who suffer from hunger need to be monitored by a doctor to recover after the period without food to avoid this syndrome.

How to Make Hummingbird Food

Refined white sugar

Instructions for making safe hummingbird food:

Mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water (e.g., 1 cup sugar with 4 cups water) until sugar is dissolved
Do not add red dye
Fill your hummingbird feeder with the sugar water and ort outside
Additional sugar water can be stored in the refrigerator
Change the feeders every other day and clean them thoroughly each time to prevent harmful mold growth

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use tap water?

Yes. You can use tap water to make your hummingbird nectar.

What type of sugar can I use?

Always use refined white sugar (regular table sugar). Never use honey, corn syrup, or raw, unprocessed sugar.

Powdered sugar (also called confectioners’ sugar) often contains additional ingredients such as cornstarch. Therefore, it is not recommended for making hummingbird food.

Should I boil the water?

No, the water for your nectar does not need to be boiled. Stir or shake your mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved in the water.

What does 1 part sugar and 4 parts water mean?

One part can be any type of measurement (e.g. cup, ounce, quart, etc.) but will always be the same. To calculate 1 part sugar and 4 parts water for your recipe, first choose a measurement for “one part. “Then do some simple math:

1 x (chosen “one part” measurement) = total sugar

4 x (selected “one part” measurement) = total water

For example, if you want to make a large amount of sugar water, you can choose 1 part = 2 cups for your recipe.

1 x 2 cups = 2 cups of sugar

4 x 2 cups = 8 cups of water

So in this example, you would mix 2 cups of sugar (1 part) with 8 cups of water (4 parts).

To make a smaller batch of sugar water, you may decide that for your recipe, 1 part = ½ cup.

1 x ½ cup = ½ cup of sugar.

4 x ½ cup = 2 cups of water.

So in this example, you would mix ½ cup of sugar (1 part) with 2 cups of water (4 parts).

How long can I store additional sugar water in the refrigerator?

Supplemental sugar water for your hummingbird feed can be stored in the refrigerator, but should not be stored for more than two weeks. If you notice mold on your sugar water stored in the refrigerator, throw it away and make a new batch for your hummingbird feeder.

How often should I change the sugar water in my hummingbird feeder?

It is recommended that feeders be changed and thoroughly cleaned every other day, but it is important that they be cleaned and refilled at least twice a week in hot weather (summer) and once a week in cooler weather (spring/fall) to prevent mold growth.

When should I set up my feeder?

Hummingbirds are migratory, Therefore, exactly when you should set up or take down your hummingbird feeder depends on where you live. Along the Gulf Coast and other southern parts of the U.S., feeders can be set up from mid-February to early November. In the mid-latitudes, they should be placed from early to mid-April through late October. Farther north, they can be placed from early May through late September. Visit eBird to learn more about hummingbird migration.

It is a myth that leaving hummingbird feeders too late in the fall will prevent birds from migrating. Hummingbirds have an internal clock regulated by the changing length of the day that lets them know when it is time to leave.

Where should I set up my feeder?

Place your feeder in the shade of windows and areas with a lot of activity. If possible, place your feeder near trees. Hummingbirds are territorial and like to perch in nearby trees to chase away intruders in their feeding area.

Why shouldn’t I add red dye to my sugar water recipe?

Red dye or coloring is not necessary to attract hummingbirds and could be harmful to the birds.
What plants and flowers attract hummingbirds?

Hummingbirds like flowers that produce lots of nectar, such as bee balm, salvias, weigela, trumpet honeysuckle (and other trumpet vines), and bleeding hearts. Red, tubular flowers are especially popular with these birds.

Many nursery flowers are grown for color, longevity, and size but do not produce much nectar, but some nurseries may have sections devoted to hummingbirds

How Long Does Food Poisoning Last

Food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, is a disease caused by eating contaminated food. Infectious organisms – including bacteria, viruses, and parasites – or their toxins are the most common causes of food poisoning.

Infectious organisms or their toxins can contaminate food at any processing or production site. Contamination can also occur at home when food is mishandled or cooked.

Symptoms of food poisoning that may occur within hours of eating contaminated food often include nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Most of the time, food poisoning is mild and resolves without treatment. But some people need to go to the hospital.

Problem Description

Food poisoning symptoms vary with the source of contamination. Most types of food poisoning cause one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Watery or bloody diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Fever

Signs and symptoms may begin within hours of eating the contaminated food or start days or even weeks later. Illness caused by food poisoning generally lasts from a few hours to several days.

When to see a doctor
If you experience any of the following signs or symptoms, seek medical attention.

  • Frequent episodes of vomiting and inability to keep fluids down
  • Bloody vomit or stool
  • Diarrhea for more than three days
  • Extreme pain or severe abdominal cramps
  • An oral temperature higher than 100.4 F (38 C)
  • Signs or symptoms of dehydration-excessive thirst, dry mouth, little or no urination, severe weakness, dizziness, or lightheadedness
  • Neurological symptoms such as blurred vision, muscle weakness, and tingling in the arms

Contamination of food can happen at any point of production: Growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping or preparing. Cross-contamination-the transfer of harmful organisms from one surface to another-is often the cause. This is especially problematic for raw, ready-to-eat foods such as salads or other produce. Because these foods are not cooked, harmful organisms are not destroyed before eating and can cause food poisoning.

Many bacterial, viral, or parasitic agents cause food poisoning. The following table shows some of the possible contaminants when you can feel symptoms and common ways the organism spreads.

Risk factor
Whether you get sick after eating contaminated food depends on the organism, the amount of exposure, your age, and your health. Risk groups include:


As you get older, your immune system may not respond as quickly or effectively to infectious organisms as it used to.
Pregnant. During pregnancy, changes in your metabolism and circulation may increase your risk of food poisoning. Your reaction may be more severe during pregnancy. Rarely, your baby may also get sick.
Infants and young children. Their immune systems are not fully developed.

People with chronic diseases. A chronic disease – such as diabetes, liver disease, or AIDS – or chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer reduces your immune response.

The most common serious complication of food poisoning is dehydration – a severe loss of water and essential salts and minerals. If you are a healthy adult and drink enough to replace fluids you lose through vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration should not be a problem.

Infants, older adults, and people with suppressed immune systems or chronic illnesses can become severely dehydrated if they lose more fluids than they can replace. In this case, they may need to be hospitalized and receive intravenous fluids. In extreme cases, dehydration can be fatal.

Some types of food poisoning have potentially serious complications for certain people. These include:

Listeria infection. Complications of Listeria food poisoning can be most severe for an unborn baby. Early in pregnancy, a Listeria infection can cause miscarriages. Later in pregnancy, Listeria infection can lead to stillbirths, premature births, or potentially fatal infection of the baby after birth – even if the mother was only mildly ill. Infants who survive a Listeria infection may experience long-term neurological damage and delayed development.

Escherichia coli (E. coli). Certain strains of E. coli can cause a serious complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome. This syndrome damages the lining of tiny blood vessels in the kidneys and sometimes leads to kidney failure. Older adults, children under age 5, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of developing this complication. If you are in one of these risk categories, see your doctor at the first sign of severe or bloody diarrhea.

To prevent food poisoning at home:

Wash your hands, utensils, and food surfaces frequently. Wash your hands well with warm, soapy water before and after handling or preparing food. Use hot soapy water to wash utensils, cutting boards, and other surfaces you use.

Keep raw foods separate from ready-to-eat foods. When shopping for, preparing, or storing food, keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish away from other foods. This prevents cross-contamination.

Cook foods to a safe temperature. The best way to determine if food is cooked to a safe temperature is to use a food thermometer. You can kill harmful organisms in most foods by cooking them to the proper temperature.

Cook ground beef to 160 F (71.1 C), steaks, roasts and chops, such as lamb, pork and veal, to at least 145 F (62.8 C). Cook chicken and turkey to 165 F (73.9 C). Make sure fish and shellfish are thoroughly cooked.

Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods immediately – within two hours of purchase or preparation. If room temperature is above 90 F (32.2 C), refrigerate perishable foods within one hour.
Defrost foods safely. Do not thaw foods at room temperature. The safest way to thaw food is to thaw it in the refrigerator. If you microwave frozen food on the “defrost” or “50% power” setting, cook it immediately.

When in doubt, throw it out. If you are not sure if a food was safely prepared, served or stored, discard it. Food left at room temperature too long may contain bacteria or toxins that cannot be destroyed by cooking. Don’t try food you’re not sure about – just throw it away. Even if it looks and smells good, it may not be safe to eat.

Food poisoning is especially serious and potentially life-threatening to young children, pregnant women and their fetuses, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. These individuals should take extra precautions by avoiding the following foods:

  • Raw or rare meat and poultry
  • Raw or uncooked fish or shellfish, including oysters, clams, mussels and scallops
  • Raw or uncooked eggs or foods that may contain them, such as cookie dough and homemade ice cream
  • Raw sprouts such as alfalfa, beans, clover and radishes
  • Unpasteurized juices and cider
  • Unpasteurized milk and milk products
  • Soft cheeses such as feta, brie and camembert; blue cheese; and unpasteurized cheese
  • Chilled pies and meat spreads
  • Uncooked hot dogs, lunch meats and sausages