What Are the Signs of Food Poisoning in Children?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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Detecting the signs of food poisoning in children can be a bit difficult, as the symptoms are typically similar to those that occur when a stomach virus is present. Some of the most common symptoms of food poisoning in children include nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting. Additional symptoms may include abdominal cramping, fever, or chills. These symptoms normally appear between a few minutes to a few hours after the poisoning occurs and may last for several days. Any questions or concerns about possible cases of food poisoning in children should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Young children, such as infants or toddlers, are more susceptible to developing food poisoning symptoms than adolescents or adults because the delicate immune system is still developing. While the symptoms are pretty much the same among people of all ages, these symptoms may be significantly more severe when food poisoning in children is present. If gastrointestinal disturbances begin within a few minutes or hours of eating, and especially if more than one person seems to be affected, food poisoning may be to blame. In rare cases, the symptoms of food poisoning in children may not develop until several days after consuming the contaminated food, making it more difficult to obtain a correct diagnosis.


Nausea and abdominal cramping are often the first signs of food poisoning in children, although very young children may have trouble communicating these symptoms. Vomiting, diarrhea, or a combination of both symptoms may begin next. At this stage, avoiding dehydration is crucial. Extra fluids should be consumed to replace the ones that are lost during the illness. Severe cases of dehydration may require a temporary stay in a hospital setting so that fluids can be introduced directly into the body through a small catheter known as an IV.

In addition to gastrointestinal disturbances, food poisoning in children may include symptoms such as headaches, muscle pain, or lethargy. The very young child may simply seem cranky or tired, as it is often difficult for children to describe such feelings. A fever may be present, but this is not always the case. If symptoms persist longer than a couple of days or become severe, a doctor should be consulted for further medical evaluation. More severe symptoms, such as bloody diarrhea or vomiting a substance that resembles coffee grounds, should be reported to a doctor immediately, as they may signal the presence of serious complications.


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Post 3

@irontoenail - A slight stomach upset is nothing to worry about. A doctor will just send you away again and many people can't afford that kind of visit. It's when the symptoms become more severe that you have to worry.

That being said, you should trust your instincts. Don't delay if it continues, as illness in children can grow dangerous very quickly.

And even if it's just a small stomach upset, you should make sure the child has plenty of water to replace fluid loss.

Post 2

@indigomoth - While I think it's important to take all precautions when you're preparing children's food, you also have to remember that kids of a certain age put everything into their mouths. There's just no preventing that from happening.

And there is some evidence to suggest that they need to do that in order to build up their immune systems. Kids who are never exposed to certain kinds of contamination can develop allergies later in life, for example.

Which is not to say that you should let them chew on the furniture, but don't put them in a bubble.

And bear in mind that even if they have been eating food from a tin all day, they might still have food poisoning.

If they are showing symptoms of a bad stomach upset you need to get them to a doctor.

Post 1

You have to be so careful with children's food. Don't take any risks with it at all.

Particularly when you are making things fresh, which is a very good idea, but needs to be done carefully.

I would really overcook the meat rather than risk it being undercooked, particularly chicken or seafood. Only use the freshest of meats as well.

If you are going to use market vegetables, wash them with a dilute bleach and then cook them thoroughly. The same with fruits.

And use soap and water to wash your hands before you start to handle anything.

As it says in the article, little ones have a much more vulnerable immune system. You'll never be able to prevent them from getting sick entirely, but you should be able to stop them from the worst of it.

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