Expert advice on the symptoms of salmonella poisoning and how to treat it.
Reviewed by Jeni Worden
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that causes food poisoning. That means if you have it, you’ll likely be suffering from diarrhoea, vomiting and a fever. The good news is that salmonella should pass within a few days.
But what exactly is salmonella, what are the symptoms of salmonella food poisoning, and when should you see a doctor? We look at the causes, treatment and prevention of salmonella:
What is salmonella?
Salmonella is a type of bacteria. It’s usually found in poultry, eggs, unprocessed milk and in meat and water. It may also be carried by pets like turtles, rodents and birds.
It usually causes food poisoning, but one type of salmonella bacteria is the cause of typhoid fever, although this is rare in the Western world. The salmonella bacteria attacks the stomach and intestines.
In more serious cases, the bacteria may enter the lymph tracts, which carry water and protein to the blood, and the blood itself. The bacteria attack all age groups and both sexes. Children, the elderly and people who are already ill are much more likely to get a serious infection.
The main signs and symptoms of salmonella poisoning are:
🔹 Stomach cramps
🔹 Nausea and vomiting
In the case of less serious infections, there are fewer symptoms – usually only diarrhoea two or three times a day for a couple of days. Most mild types of salmonella infection clear up in four to seven days without requiring any treatment other than rest and plenty of liquid.
A more severe infection may cause excessive diarrhoea, stomach cramps and general health problems. In such cases, treatment with hospital admission for rehydration and possibly antibiotics may be needed.
When to see a doctor about salmonella
If you are suffering from the following, seek medical attention:
- If diarrhoea continues for more than 24 hours.
- If the diarrhoea is frequent and intense.
- If the patient has severe stomach cramps.
- If there is blood in the faeces.
- If the patient has fever of 38oC or higher.
- If you work in the food or health industry.
- If there are signs of jaundice.
- Salmonella and dehydration
How to prevent salmonella
The best way to prevent salmonella food poisoning is to pay attention to cleanliness and make sure that all food is thoroughly cooked.
✔️Always wash your hands with soap after going to the toilet and before preparing food. Dry them on a dry towel.
✔️ Wash your hands when you switch from preparing one type of food to another, eg vegetables to meat. This helps prevent the exchange of bacteria between different ingredients.
✔️ Kitchen utensils must be properly washed with soap and water before use with another type of food. Again, this stops bacteria being exchanged.
Pay attention to cleanliness and make sure that all food is thoroughly cooked.
✔️Use different cutting boards and knives for preparing different foods.
✔️ Change the dishcloth every day. Wash dishcloths in water that is at least 60oC.
✔️ Store food in the refrigerator and store cooked food above uncooked, so juices from raw meat or fish cannot drip on to cooked food causing contamination. Meat, poultry and fish must not be left out of the fridge for long periods.
✔️ The only effective way to kill salmonella bacteria is with heat. For this reason it is essential to cook food thoroughly.