Salmonella Gastroenteritis, Adult

ExitCare ImageSalmonella gastroenteritis occurs when certain bacteria infect the intestines. People usually begin to feel ill within 72 hours after the infection occurs. The illness can last from 2 days to 2 weeks. Elderly and immunocompromised people are at the greatest risk of this infection. Most people recover completely. However, salmonella bacteria can spread from the intestines to the blood and other parts of the body. In rare cases, a person may develop reactive arthritis with pain in the joints, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination.


Salmonella gastroenteritis usually occurs after eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with salmonella bacteria. Common causes of this contamination include:

  • Poor personal hygiene.

  • Poor kitchen hygiene.

  • Drinking polluted, standing water.

  • Contact with carriers of the bacteria. Reptiles are strongly associated with the bacteria, but other animals may carry the bacteria, as well.


  • Nausea.

  • Vomiting.

  • Abdominal pain or cramps.

  • Diarrhea, which may be bloody.

  • Fever.

  • Headache.


Your caregiver will take your medical history and perform a physical exam. A blood or stool sample may also be taken and tested for the presence of salmonella bacteria.


Often, no treatment is needed. However, you will need to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. In severe cases, antibiotic medicines may be given to help shorten the illness.


To prevent future salmonella infections:

  • Handle meat, eggs, seafood, and poultry properly.

  • Wash your hands and counters thoroughly after handling or preparing meat, eggs, seafood, and poultry.

  • Always cook meat, eggs, seafood, and poultry thoroughly.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling animals.


  • Drink enough fluids to keep your urine clear or pale yellow. Until your diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting is under control, you should only drink clear liquids. Clear liquids are anything you can see through, such as water, broth, or non-caffeinated tea. Avoid:

  • Milk.

  • Fruit juice.

  • Alcohol.

  • Extremely hot or cold fluids.

  • If you do not have an appetite, do not force yourself to eat. However, you must continue to drink fluids.

  • If you have an appetite, eat a normal diet unless your caregiver tells you differently.

  • Eat a variety of complex carbohydrates (rice, wheat, potatoes, bread), lean meats, yogurt, fruits, and vegetables.

  • Avoid high-fat foods because they are more difficult to digest.

  • If you are dehydrated, ask your caregiver for specific rehydration instructions. Signs of dehydration may include:

  • Severe thirst.

  • Dry lips and mouth.

  • Dizziness.

  • Dark urine.

  • Decreasing urine frequency and amount.

  • Confusion.

  • Rapid breathing or pulse.

  • If you are given antibiotics, take them as directed. Finish them even if you start to feel better.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver. Antidiarrheal medicines are not recommended.

  • Keep all follow-up appointments as directed by your caregiver.


  • You are unable to keep fluids down.

  • You have persistent vomiting or diarrhea.

  • You have abdominal pain that increases or is concentrated in one small area (localized).

  • Your diarrhea contains increased blood or mucus.

  • You feel very weak, dizzy, thirsty, or you faint.

  • You lose a significant amount of weight. Your caregiver can tell you how much weight loss should concern you.

  • You have a fever.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.