Skip to Content
Home > Health Information > Health Library > Staph Food Poisoning
Staph food poisoning is a type of food poisoning caused by infection with the Staphylococcus aureus ( S. aureus) bacterium. The bacteria multiply in foods and produce toxins especially if food is kept at room temperature. The toxins may be present in dangerous amounts in foods that have no signs of spoilage, such as a bad smell.
Most people get staph poisoning by eating contaminated food. The most common reason for contamination is that the food has not been kept hot enough [140°F (60°C) or above] or cold enough [40°F (4°C) or below].
Foods that are associated with staph food poisoning include:
Symptoms of staph food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, retching, stomach cramping, and diarrhea. In more severe cases, dehydration, headache, muscle cramping, and changes in blood pressure and pulse rate may occur.
Symptoms typically come on quickly. How severe they are depends on your susceptibility to the toxin, how much contaminated food you ate, how much of the toxin you ingested, and your general health. The condition is typically over in 2 days. But it is not unusual for complete recovery to take 3 days and sometimes longer in severe cases.
Staph food poisoning is diagnosed based on a medical history and a physical exam. Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms, your work and home environments, and foods you have recently eaten and whether other people have become ill from eating the same things. A stool culture and blood tests may be done if your symptoms are severe or to rule out other causes.
You treat staph food poisoning by managing any complications until it passes. Dehydration caused by diarrhea and vomiting is the most common complication. Do not use medicines, including antibiotics and other treatments, unless your doctor recommends them.
To prevent dehydration, take frequent sips of a rehydration drink (such as Pedialyte). Try to drink a cup of water or rehydration drink for each large, loose stool you have. Soda and fruit juices have too much sugar and not enough of the important electrolytes that are lost during diarrhea, and they should not be used to rehydrate.
Try to stay with your usual diet as much as possible. Eating your usual diet will help you to get enough nutrition. Doctors believe that eating a normal diet will also help you feel better faster. But try to avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar. Also avoid spicy foods, alcohol, and coffee for 2 days after all symptoms have disappeared.
The following steps can help prevent staph food poisoning (adapted from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
It is important to pay particular attention to food preparation and storage during warm months when food is often served outside. Bacteria grow faster in warmer weather, so food can spoil more quickly and possibly cause illness. Do not leave food outdoors for more than 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F (32°C), and never leave it outdoors for more than 2 hours.
Current as of:
June 9, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Current as of:
June 9, 2019
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2019 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
See important information from Billings Clinic on Non-discrimination and Interpreter Services.
Billings Clinic is proud to be an equal opportunity/affirmative action (EOE/AA) e-verify employer.