Salmonella Gastroenteritis, Pediatric

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. Infants 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 child's caregiver will take your child's 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, your child 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 hands and counters thoroughly after handling or preparing meat, eggs, seafood, and poultry.

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

  • Wash hands thoroughly after handling animals.


  • Make sure your child drinks enough fluids to keep his or her urine clear or pale yellow.

  • If your child does not have an appetite, do not force your child to eat. However, your child must continue to drink fluids.

  • If your child does have an appetite, he or she should eat a normal diet unless your child's caregiver tells you differently. Avoid:

  • Foods and drinks high in sugar. This may worsen diarrhea.

  • Carbonated soft drinks.

  • Fruit juice.

  • Gelatin desserts.

  • Record fluid intake and urine output. Dry diapers for longer than usual or poor urine output may indicate dehydration.

  • If your child is 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 antibiotics are prescribed, make sure your child takes them as directed. Make sure your child finishes them even if he or she starts to feel better.

  • Only give over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your child's caregiver. Do not give aspirin to children. Antidiarrheal medicines are not recommended.

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


  • Your child is unable to keep fluids down.

  • Your child has persistent vomiting or diarrhea.

  • Your child has abdominal pain that increases or is concentrated in one small area (localized).

  • Your child's diarrhea contains increased blood or mucus.

  • Your child feels very weak, dizzy, thirsty, or he or she faints.

  • Your child loses a significant amount of weight. Your child's caregiver can tell you how much weight loss should concern you.

  • Your child who is younger than 3 months has a fever.

  • Your child who is older than 3 months has a fever and persistent symptoms.

  • Your child who is older than 3 months has a fever and symptoms suddenly get worse.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

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