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Quick Facts

Staphylococcal Food Poisoning


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Aug 2019
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What is staphylococcal food poisoning?

Food poisoning is a problem in which something you eat gives you diarrhea and makes you throw up. Staphylococci are a type of bacteria (germs). So, staphylococcal food poisoning is when you get sick from eating food that has this kind of bacteria growing in it. The bacteria make toxins (poisons). It's these toxins rather than the bacteria that make you sick.

Other kinds of bacteria also can cause food poisoning. For example, clostridial food poisoning is caused by bacteria called clostridia.

Foods that can give you staphylococcal food poisoning may smell and taste normal. Many foods can cause staphylococcal food poisoning, particularly foods that were:

  • Not cooked long enough

  • Left sitting out at room temperature

  • Handled by someone who has a staphylococcal skin infection

Food poisoning is a lot like gastroenteritis. But in gastroenteritis, germs in the food grow inside your belly and make you sick. Those germs don't make poisons.

What are the symptoms of staphylococcal food poisoning?

Symptoms usually start very suddenly 2 to 8 hours after eating and include:

  • Feeling very sick to your stomach

  • Throwing up

  • Belly cramps

  • Diarrhea

Symptoms usually last about 12 hours. They go away as quickly as they came. However, if you don’t drink enough fluids, you may feel weak for a while longer.

Staphylococcal food poisoning can be life-threatening for babies and young children, very old adults, and people with long-term health problems.

How can doctors tell if I have staphylococcal food poisoning?

Doctors suspect staphylococcal food poisoning based on your symptoms, particularly if people who ate the same food as you also got sick. Doctors don't usually do tests, but they sometimes test leftover food for the staphyloccocal bacteria.

How do doctors treat staphylococcal food poisoning?

Doctors will:

  • Tell you to drink plenty of fluids

If your symptoms are severe, doctors may:

  • Give you medicine to stop you from feeling sick to your stomach and throwing up

  • Give you fluids through your vein (IV)

Medicine that can stop you from throwing up is usually given as a shot or as a suppository. A suppository is a dissolving pill that's placed in your rear end.

How can I prevent staphylococcal food poisoning?

Make and store food safely:

  • Don’t prepare food if you have a skin infection

  • Eat food as soon as you prepare it

  • Cook food (such as meat) properly to reach safe temperatures

  • Put leftover food in the refrigerator

  • Don't keep prepared food sitting out at room temperature

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
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