Emergency advice

Food poisoning:

  1. Advise them to rest and drink water or oral hydration solution.
  2. Seek medical advice if worried.

What is food poisoning? 

Food poisoning can be caused by eating contaminated food. In most cases the food hasn’t been cooked properly and is contaminated by bacteria, such as salmonella or E. coli. 

Signs and symptoms

Look for: 

  • vomiting 
  • stomach cramps  
  • diarrhoea  
  • signs of a fever, with a high temperature.

What to do

  1. If you think someone has food poisoning, advise them to lie down and rest.

    Encourage them to drinkg plenty to prevent dehydration, in particular:

    • if they are vomiting, encourage them to drink small sips of water.
    • after each loose stool.

    Seek medical advice if:

    • vomiting a lot and unable to keep fluids down.
    • blood in the stools.
    • elderly or people with underlying health problems such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel dosease or kidney disease.
    • the patient is pregnant.
    • you think the person is becoming dehydrated (the elderly, babies or young children are at greater risk.
  2. Do not take anti-diarrhoea medicines unless specifically advised by a healthcare professional.

    For advice, speak to your GP or call 111 for advice.  In an emergency call 999 or 112.

  3. When they feel hungry again, advise them to eat light, bland, easily digested foods, such as bread, rice crackers or a banana.

    • Avoid alcohol, caffeibe or fizzy drinks.


  4. To prevent the spread of infection, encourage regular hand washing using soap and water (not hand sanitiser).

  5. Stay off work or school for at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting.

Related first aid advice

Vomiting and diarrhoea

Vomiting and diarrhoea can cause the body to lose vital fluids and salts. Find out what to look for and what to do.


A fever is when a person has a persistent high temperature above 37°C (98.6°F). Find out what to look for and what to do.

Who should I call?

At some point in their life, most people will witness or be involved in an accident or medical emergency. Knowing what to do and when you should call the emergency services can potentially save lives.

St John Ambulance volunteers providing support