How long does it take for food poisoning to set in?

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How long does it take for food poisoning to set in?
Cook your meat well-done to help avoid food poisoning. (Getty Thinkstock)

How long food poisoning takes to set in depends on the type of food poisoning. Generally, symptoms can set in within two to six hours after food has been consumed. But sometimes symptoms can appear within a few days or a few minutes. Illnesses caused by food poisoning can last up to 10 days. Some food poisonings can be fatal.

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Time Line for Food Poisoning

How long food poisoning takes to set in depends on the type of food poisoning. Generally, symptoms can set in within two to six hours after food has been consumed. But sometimes symptoms can appear within a few days or a few minutes. Illnesses caused by food poisoning can last up to 10 days. Some food poisonings can be fatal.

Fast-Developing Poisons

Some food poisoning develops rather quickly, sometimes immediately after digestion or within a few short hours. Staphylococcus aureus is a form of food poisoning that is contracted through meat, seafood, salads, sandwich spreads and foods with a high salt content. The bacteria enter through the nose and throat and sometimes through the skin and superficial wounds. The poisoning can occur within four to six hours after these foods have been digested. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Clostridium botulinum is a bacteria that produces a spore that exists on little oxygen and produces a heat-sensitive toxin. It can be found in soils, plants, marine sediments and fish. The bacteria can be ingested through home-canned foods and can lead to blurred vision, respiratory distress and possibly death.

Slower-Developing Poisons

Other forms of food poisoning can take up to 12 to 24 hours to set in. Salmonella is one of the more well-known types of food poisoning and generally infects the intestines. Salmonella can be contracted through high-protein foods that are uncooked or undercooked. These include meat, poultry, fish and eggs. Salmonella can also be ingested from foods that have been contaminated from raw poultry or meat. Symptoms can include diarrhoea, nausea, chills, vomiting and fever.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus is generally found in raw and cooked shellfish and fish. Symptoms of this bacteria include diarrhoea, cramps, vomiting, headache and fever. Clostridium perfringens is a bacteria that is formed in heat-resistant spores and is found in dust, soil and the gastrointestinal tracts of animals and humans. The most likely culprit of digestion is through meat and poultry, sauces and gravies. Symptoms include cramps and diarrhoea.

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