Salmonella infection is a type of gastroenteritis (or ‘gastro’). It’s caused by Salmonella bacteria. It’s likely to make you or your child feel sick, possibly with fever, diarrhoea and vomiting, and it usually lasts for 2 to 7 days.
What causes salmonella?
If you have salmonella, you've been infected with bacteria that's transferred to your mouth from:
- contaminated food, water or your own hands
- another person's hand or a contaminated surface
- animal faeces (poo)
Contaminated food can look and smell normal.
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.
Symptoms start between 6 hours and 7 days after you've been infected and may include:
- loss of appetite
- stomach cramps
- nausea and vomiting
- blood or mucus in stools (poo)
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.
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 don't 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.
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. Don't have ice in drinks or washed or cut fruit.
Last reviewed: January 2019