How to Treat Food Poisoning in Children

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Food poisoning, also known as food-borne illness, can strike children and adults alike. Symptoms of food poisoning, such as vomiting and diarrhea, typically start around eight hours after contaminated food is consumed, although some types of food poisoning, such as salmonella, can have an incubation period of up to three days. Food poisoning typically resolves after 48 hours. When treating your child’s bout of food poisoning, preventing dehydration is the most important task.

Step 1

Identify the hallmark signs and symptoms of food poisoning. These include nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, tummy pain/cramps, lethargy and fever. However, most cases of vomiting and diarrhea in children are caused by a virus, not food poisoning, according to Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. Call your child’s pediatrician immediately if he’s throwing up what appears to be coffee grounds, if vomit has a yellow or green tinge, if blood is present in the vomit or stool, or if you suspect your child may have consumed something poisonous.

Step 2

Don’t let your child eat anything if she’s vomiting. Withhold solid foods for at least 24 hours after vomiting first starts.

Step 3

Make your child comfortable while he’s still vomiting. He should lie down on his side or stomach to reduce the risk of aspiration, the unintentional inhalation of vomit into the airway and lungs.

Step 4

Keep your child hydrated. Give infants and younger children oral rehydration solution, or ORS, such as Pedialyte, Ricelyte or Rehydralyte, advises the AAFP. Start with a small amount — a teaspoon every minute — until she can keep it down. Supplement ORS with clear broths, sodas, juices, sugar water or frozen popsicles.

Step 5

Introduce solid foods back into your child’s diet slowly. Serve small portions of bland foods, such as rice, toast, crackers, applesauce and bananas. Avoid giving your child sweet, fatty foods like ice cream or pudding or fried foods. Avoid dairy products for three to seven days, recommends the AAFP. Encourage your child to take small bites and eat slowly.

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