Skip to content

How to recognize and distinguish symptoms in the gastrointestinal tract during a salmonella infection

The so-called salmonellosis is a common bacterial disease that affects the intestinal tract, but are symptoms distinguishable during a salmonella infection? To answer this question, it is recommended to be better informed about the nature of the disease. Typically, most people with this type of infection do not experience any symptoms. However, others develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps within 8 to 72 hours. In addition, the majority of those affected recover within a few days without specific treatment. The following information may help you learn more about the differences in this intestinal infection.

Why symptoms vary with salmonella infection

food poisoning and salmonellosis distinguishable by different symptoms

The bacteria described above typically live in the animal and human gastrointestinal tract and are shed in feces. Humans most commonly become infected through contaminated water or food. In some cases, the diarrhea associated with salmonellosis can be so dehydrating that immediate medical attention is needed. Life-threatening complications can also develop if the infection spreads beyond your intestines. The risk of salmonella infection is accordingly also higher if you travel to countries where hygiene is not taken care of.

test raw eggs for salmonella in the lab

A few times a year there is worrying news about such an outbreak of this intestinal infection. This bacterial infection is often caused by contaminated water or food, which means that it can affect populations at the same time. On the consumer side, such infection outbreaks can lead to product recalls. On the health side, infections can lead to illness, hospitalization and, in rare cases, even death. All in all, it’s a good idea to keep up with news and learn about symptoms if infections occur in your area.

How bacteria cause salmonellosis

dangerous bacteria in intestines can cause symptoms of typhoid fever in salmonella infection

If you think you’re experiencing symptoms with a salmonella infection, the priority, of course, is to confirm the diagnosis and begin treatment. This means that you should see a doctor. As mentioned earlier, Salmonella are microbes that mainly affect the intestinal tract. Some intestinal bacteria of this type lead to typhoid fever, a sometimes fatal disease that is more common in developing countries. Here are the most common signs and symptoms to look out for when it comes to salmonella.

contamination with bacteria salmonella from raw chicken legs during cooking

Salmonella infection is usually caused by eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs or egg products. The incubation period ranges from several hours to two days. Most Salmonella infections can be classified as stomach flu (gastroenteritis). Signs and symptoms of Salmonella infection generally last two to seven days. Diarrhea can last up to 10 days, although it may take several months for the intestines to return to normal.

When symptoms occur with salmonella infection.

stomach cramps stomach flu or salmonella infection symptoms like vomiting

The main symptoms of Salmonella infection are diarrhea, vomiting, fever and abdominal cramps. Symptoms typically begin six hours to six days after the initial infection and can last four to seven days. To be sure you have salmonella (and not another foodborne illness or stomach upset), you will need to have a lab test of your stool or blood. Most people infected with Salmonella usually recover within a few days at home by drinking plenty of fluids. However, older patients, infants and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to suffer a more severe illness.

plush figure symbolizing diarrhea on toilet bowl

Although a Salmonella infection often clears up at home, it is important to see your doctor. If your symptoms are severe or if you are in a place with an outbreak, a doctor’s visit would be wise. Doctors can help you determine the best course of treatment. This may require an antibiotic to eliminate the salmonella and help you recover. Anyone suffering from dehydration due to diarrhea and/or vomiting should go to the hospital to replenish lost fluids. Signs of dehydration include dry urine, dry mouth, and dizziness when standing up.

How eating food can lead to salmonella infection

prepare skewers with vegetables and meat on the grill in the garden

As described above, consumption of raw meat, poultry, and seafood can be a possible cause of intestinal bacterial infection. Fecal matter can get onto raw meat and poultry during the slaughter process. Seafood can be contaminated if harvested from contaminated water. While the shell of an egg appears to be a perfect barrier to contamination, some infected chickens also produce eggs that contain Salmonella. This occurs before the shell has even formed. In addition, raw eggs are used in homemade versions of mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce.

outbreak of salmonella infection due to transmission by birds or pets

Some fresh produce, especially imported varieties, may be hydrated in the field or washed through water contaminated with Salmonella during processing. Contamination can also occur in the kitchen when juices from raw meat and poultry come into contact with uncooked foods such as salads. Some outbreaks of the infection are even due to contamination in condiments. Many foods become contaminated when they are prepared by people who do not wash their hands thoroughly after using the toilet or changing diapers. Infection can also occur if you touch something contaminated, including pets, and then put your fingers in your mouth. Birds and reptiles could be especially highly infectious in this case.

What risk factors for salmonella infection can cause symptoms

young woman sits in bed when salmonella infection symptoms occur

Factors that can increase your risk of Salmonella infection include activities that can bring you into closer contact with Salmonella bacteria. This also includes health problems that can weaken your resistance to infection in general. Some bacterial types of infection that cause typhoid fever are more common in developing countries with poor sanitation. However, the body has many natural defenses against Salmonella infection. For example, strong stomach acid can kill many such bacteria.

eat raw meat or vegetables in wraps

Some medical problems or medications can short-circuit these natural defenses. If you lower the acidity of your stomach, more Salmonella bacteria can survive. Inflammatory bowel disease is also a disorder that can damage your intestinal lining, making it easier for microbes to take hold. Recent use of antibiotics can also decrease the number of “good” bacteria in your gut, which can affect your ability to fight off a Salmonella infection.

Preventive measures

woman washes lettuce with water before eating for salmonella infection symptoms

You can be especially careful not to spread bacteria to others. Preventive measures are especially important when preparing food or caring for infants, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems. Also, make sure to cook foods thoroughly and refrigerate or freeze raw meat immediately. Thorough hand washing can also help prevent transmission to your mouth or to foods you prepare.

raw dough for spaghetti can cause symptoms of salmonella infection

To avoid cross-contamination, keep raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from other foods in your refrigerator. If possible, keep two cutting boards in your kitchen – one for raw meat and the other for fruits and vegetables. Also, never put cooked food on an unwashed plate that previously had raw meat on it. Cookie dough, homemade ice cream, and eggnog all contain raw eggs. If you are going to eat raw eggs, make sure they have been pasteurized.