This is a bacterial infection called salmonella (salmonellosis). The most common symptoms of this infection are fever, stomach pain, and diarrhea. In some cases, salmonella disappears on its own in several days but there are some serious cases that require treatment. By safe food handling and regular hand washing after touching animals you can prevent or avoid this bacterial infection.

What is Salmonella?

When a person gets sick with diarrhea and stomach pains from bacteria (gastroenteritis) we call it salmonella. Moreover, it is the most common form of bacterial food poisoning in the United States. However, if a person gets salmonella it means that this bacteria has passed your stomach acid and the body’s defense (immune system) to make you sick. This infection destroys intestine line cells that prevent the body from absorbing water enough, which may lead to dehydration. Drink plenty of water if you have salmonella. The body loses water through diarrhea.

Who is at Higher Risk for Salmonella?

However, salmonella can affect anyone but you are at higher risk for this bacterial infection due to certain existing conditions, using some medicines, your living conditions, age, and others. Check below some factors that can increase your risk for salmonella:

  • Work or live around high-risk animals (including chickens, lizards, turtles, ducks, and others)
  • Antibiotic or Antacid use
  • Have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Children under 5 years old

Additionally, you are at higher risk for serious conditions due to salmonella in case:

  • Over 65 years old or under the age of one year
  • Compromised immune system (caused by HIV, chemotherapy, and others)
  • Sickle cell anemia

In addition, foods such as peanut butter, packaged meats, and frozen food can provoke salmonella. This infection may come from some animals (including guinea pigs, turtles, chickens, hedgehogs, lizards, and others).


In most cases, symptoms appear during a few hours or several days after you eat contaminated food. These symptoms can happen anywhere and can be from mild to severe. For example:

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea (in some cases bloody)
  • Stomach cramps or pains
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches

Immediately contact your doctor if you experience any of the previous symptoms.


The bacteria that provokes this poisoning is called salmonella. These bacteria live in the people and animal’s intestines. However, things we touch, drink, or eat also can be contaminated. For example:

  • Raw eggs and eggshells
  • Raw red meat, poultry, and seafood
  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Unpasteurized milk or cheese
  • Untreated water
  • The skin, scales, feathers, fur, and feces of animals and places where they live
  • Surfaces near an individual that is infected with this bacteria

When You Usually Get Salmonella?

Usually, a person gets this infection through undercooked or improper preparation of food. For example:

  • Un or undercooked food (including seafood, eggs, poultry, meat, and others)
  • Contaminated vegetables or fruits
  • Unpasteurized milk or contaminated water
  • Not washing your hands before food preparation

You may also get this bacterial infection by touching animals because they carry salmonella on their fur, feathers, or skin. For example:

  • Amphibians (such as frogs and toads)
  • Reptiles (including turtles, lizards, and snakes)
  • Birds (turkey, wild birds, ducks, and chicken)
  • Farm animals (such as cows, goats, sheep, and pigs)
  • Pets (such as small animals, birds, cats, dogs, and others)

Is Salmonella Contagious?

Unfortunately, yes, it is a contagious infection that can spread from one person to another.


Your physician may order you to do some tests to confirm whether you have salmonella or not. For example stool, blood, or other sample tests. Additionally, your doctor may perform a physical examination and ask you about symptoms and medical history. Other tests that your doctor may order you to do include a urine test, or a sample from a wound (abscess).


In most cases, this infection goes away on its own and does not need treatment. However, if you are severely ill or at increased risk for complications, physicians may prescribe some antibiotics. Moreover, if you experience severe diarrhea you may be hospitalized. Additionally, it is recommended to drink plenty of water while experiencing this infection or your physician may give you IV fluids if you are dehydrated. Check below some medicines used in the salmonella treatment:

  • Ceftriaxone
  • Azithromycin
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMX)

Loperamide and Bismuth Subsalicylate are some nonprescription medications used to stop diarrhea in adults. However, you should not give them to children or infants without a doctor’s approval.

By considering the following steps, you can prevent or lessen the symptoms. For example:

  • Water
  • Sports drinks
  • 100% fruit juices with added water
  • Broth
  • Pedialyte (oral rehydration solution)

Discuss with your doctor for more details.


It is advised to follow safe food preparation and to be careful around animals. Check below some seafood preparation practices:

  • You should not prepare food for others if you are infected.
  • Regularly wash your hands, especially before and after preparing food.
  • Prepare food to a safe temperature before eating.
  • Peel and wash all vegetables and fruits before cooking, eating, or cutting.
  • You should refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, and seafood as soon as it is possible.
  • Avoid drinking unpasteurized milk or foods produces with this milk.
  • Do not drink untreated water or products that are prepared with this water.

Ask your healthcare professional if you have any questions.


While most people do not have any complications, others may experience dehydration, bacteremia, osteomyelitis, and reactive arthritis.


You should go to the emergency room if you notice any of the following symptoms of severe dehydration. Examples include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Child
  • Constipation
  • High heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth or throat


The symptoms of this complication include meningitis, pericarditis, endocarditis, and sepsis. You should immediately see a doctor if experience any of them.


In those who experience sickle cell anemia, may occur a rare salmonella infection of the bones (osteomyelitis). Contact your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms. Examples include:

  • Back or bone pain
  • Swollen, red, or filled with fluid (pus) parts of the body
  • Trouble moving

Reactive Arthritis

It is advised to seek medical attention right away if any of the following symptoms happen. Examples include:

  • Rash
  • Mouth sores
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Frequent need to pee
  • Joint stiffness, swelling, and pain
  • Lower back pain

Frequently Asked Questions

How common is salmonella?

This infection is considered one of the most common forms of food poisoning, which affects about a million people in the U.S. Moreover, roughly 26.500 people are hospitalized and 420 deaths are caused by salmonella each year.

How long does salmonella last?

The duration of the symptoms usually ranges between 4-7 days. In any case, it is advised to consult with your doctor if you see no improvements after 3 days.

When should I see my physician?

If you do not notice any improvements in your symptoms after several days, it is advised to consult a doctor. In addition, you should go to the emergency room if you have symptoms of serious conditions or dehydration. For example:

  • Dizziness
  • Dry throat or mouth
  • Dark urine
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Bloody stools
  • High fever
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