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.

    If they’re vomiting, give them small sips of water to drink as this will help prevent dehydration.

    If they have accompanying diarrhoea or diarrhoea only, it is even more important to try to replace lost fluids and salts.

    • You can advise them to take an oral rehydration solution (ORS) as directed on the packet from your local pharmacy. This is particularly important in more vulnerable people such as the elderly, those with other health conditions, and children.
  2. When they feel hungry again, advise them to eat light, bland, easily digested foods, such as bread, rice, crackers, or a banana.

    • Do not drink alcohol, caffeine, or fizzy drinks.
  3. If they get worse and the vomiting and diarrhoea is persistent, particularly in the elderly, babies, or young children, seek medical advice. Call 999 or 112 for emergency help.

    • Do not take anti-diarrhoea medicines unless specifically advised by a healthcare professional. 
  4. To prevent the spread of the infection, always use and encourage good hand hygiene.

  5. Stay off work or school until 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.

When to call an ambulance

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