girl eating and food poisoning

Food poisoning in children

Food poisoning is usually caused by intake of contaminated food or water. It may be contaminated by different kinds of bacteria. These may already be present in food or may be transferred from hand to mouth. Fecal-oral route is another way for getting food poisoning.

Causative organisms

  • Bacteria which cause food poisoning are: campylobacter, salmonella, shigella and E. Coli.
  • Viruses responsible for causing food poising are: norovirus and rotavirus causing Hepatitis A
  • Some parasites are also involved: Entamoeba histolytica, giardia lamblia and toxoplasma
  • Toxins of some bacteria: Toxins of Staphylococcus aureus (usually in ice-cream), Bacillus cereus (especially in rice)

Food becomes contaminated if not stored or cooked properly. Unhygienic environment for example not washing the utensils used in cooking can also lead to this childhood common disease. Bacteria may be present in unpasteurized milk and cheese. Water usually becomes contaminated by stools present in the water supply. Drinking and washing with contaminated water can also result in the transfer of germs. Water contamination is usually a problem in countries with poor sanitation.

baby eating carrots and food poisoning

Symptoms of food poisoning

A toddler may develop symptoms 2 to 48 hours after eating. It will last a day or two but can be prolonged for one week. In some cases, symptoms come on within one to three days of eating and in the rest incubation period is of 90 days. The usual symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, headache and fever. Your child may also complain of cramp pains in the stomach. A high temperature may be associated with headache and aching limbs. In some infections, blood stained stools may also be present.

Dehydration is most like to occur in babies less than one year, who are underweight, who have stopped eating and drinking. Dehydration symptoms in childhood common diseases are passing little urine, dryness of mouth and lips, lethargy and drowsiness.

Symptoms are usually sufficient for diagnosis but your doctor may take history or in some cases your child’s stool sample may be required to detect the organism and to prescribe the treatment accordingly. Blood samples may also be taken.


You should know when to call the doctor for these childhood common diseases. In case of food poisoning, you may need to seek medical advice when the severity of symptoms increases. Go to the doctor especially if your child is less than 6 months of age and there is dehydration. Child may be confused or drowsy indicating the worsening of condition. Pounding heart, temperature more than 103 degrees Fahrenheit and bloody feces should also ring bells and you should rush to the doctor. Consult a doctor if your child has some other underlying disease as food poisoning can only complicate the already existing condition.

Mostly childhood common diseases require that you give your child the most comfortable environment. So, home care is really helpful in treating a child with food poisoning. Most often, the symptoms will reduce in severity and the child will get better on his own. When you consult a doctor, he will ask about what your child last ate and will perform an examination on the child. Doctor will prescribe antibiotics if required.

Dehydration needs to be treated first and foremost. Make sure your child has gotten plenty of rest and is drinking fluids. Electrolyte solutions and not milk are recommended. Solid foods and dairy products are avoided. The amount of re-hydration drinks to be given will depend on the child’s weight and age. These drinks will restore the electrolyte imbalance and provide perfect amounts of sugar, salt and water.

Severely dehydrated children are admitted to hospitals and given IV fluids. Food intake should be as normal as possible with the breast fed babies continued to be breast fed and same goes for the bottle fed babies. However, elder children may not be forced to eat. They can be given food whenever they ask for it. Medication is usually not given however anti-secretory medicines for re-hydration and Paracetamol may be given to ease the pain and treat high fever.


Childhood common diseases can always be prevented only if you know what measures are needed to be taken. Cleanliness, proper cooking, chilling foods kept at appropriate temperature can help prevent food poisoning. Children should be taught to wash their hands properly. Do not eat or cook expired food. Take all these measures and your child will always be healthy.

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2 thoughts on “Food poisoning in children

  • Lynne

    So if one of my children get food poisoning how would I know that is isn’t just a bug? Of course if I see blood in their stool I will take them to a doctor immediately but all the other symptoms seem pretty standard for a bug. Is there anything in particular I should pay attention to?

    • Sametriu Post author

      Unfortunately, you are right and there isn’t too much we can do. Just we patient, check for all the symptoms and if it gets prolonged more than 2-3 days or the severity of symptoms increase you must go to see a doctor.