What is salmonella?
Salmonella infection is a type of gastroenteritis (or 'gastro'). It is caused by Salmonella bacteria. It is likely to make someone feel sick, possibly with fever, diarrhoea and vomiting, and it usually lasts for 2 to 7 days.
What are the symptoms of salmonella?
Symptoms start between 6 hours and 7 days after you have been infected and may include:
- loss of appetite
- stomach cramps
- nausea and vomiting
- blood or mucus in stools (poo)
What causes salmonella?
Salmonella poisoning is caused by infection with bacteria that are transferred to the mouth from:
- contaminated food, water or the hands
- another person's hand or a contaminated surface
- animal faeces (poo)
Contaminated food can look and smell normal.
If you have salmonella, you should avoid contact with other people for at least 24 hours after your vomiting and diarrhoea stops.
You can spread it for as long as you carry the bacteria — which may be months after you stop having any symptoms. Read more about food poisoning.
How is salmonella diagnosed?
You should see a doctor if the infection is making you or your child dehydrated or if it causes:
- severe abdominal pain
- bloody diarrhoea
If you think your baby has salmonella, you should consult a doctor immediately.
Diagnosis is made by collecting a stool (poo) sample to test for the bacteria.
How is salmonella treated?
You should drink a lot of fluids such as water or oral rehydration drinks (from your pharmacist).
Most people recover within about a week and do not need antibiotics. However, antibiotics may be prescribed for young children or older people.
Avoid medicine to prevent vomiting or diarrhoea, unless recommended by your doctor.
Watch out for dehydration in both adults and children. If a baby has salmonella, continue breastfeeding. If they are formula fed, continue feeding after rehydrating them with oral rehydration solution.
Can salmonella be prevented?
The best way to prevent salmonella is to:
- handle and cook food safely
- wash your hands after going to the toilet, before and after preparing food, changing nappies and after touching animals
- take care in selecting, preparing and eating high-risk foods such as raw or incompletely cooked eggs, unpasteurised milk and incompletely cooked chicken
Salmonella infections are common in Asia, the Pacific islands, Africa, the Middle East and Central and South America. If you travel to these parts, avoid foods that may be contaminated such as salads and fresh fruit salads, raw or cold seafood, or cold meat. In these areas, use bottled water for drinking and for brushing teeth. Do not have ice in drinks or washed or cut fruit.
Learn more about travel health, good hand hygiene and handling food safely.
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Last reviewed: January 2021