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Salmonella enterocolitis is an infection in the lining of the small intestine that is caused by Salmonella bacteria.
Salmonellosis; Nontyphoidal salmonella
Salmonella infection is one of the most common types of food poisoning. It occurs when you swallow food or water that contains salmonella bacteria.
The salmonella germs may get into the food you eat (called contamination) in several ways.
You are more likely to get this type of infection if you have:
- Eaten foods such as turkey, turkey dressing, chicken, or eggs that have not been cooked well or stored properly
- Family members with a recent salmonella infection
- Been or worked in a hospital, nursing home, or other long-term health facility
- A pet iguana or other lizards, turtles, or snakes (reptiles and amphibians are carriers of salmonella)
- A weakened immune system
- Regularly used medicines that block acid production in the stomach
- Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
- Used antibiotics in the recent past
Most people with this condition are younger than 20.
The time between getting infected and having symptoms is 8 to 48 hours. Symptoms include:
Exams and Tests
The health care provider will perform a physical exam. You may have signs of a tender abdomen and tiny pink spots, called rose spots, on your skin.
Tests that may be done include:
The goal is to make you feel better and avoid dehydration. Dehydration means your body does not have as much water and fluids as it should.
These things may help you feel better if you have diarrhea:
- Drink 8 to 10 glasses of clear fluids every day. Water is best.
- Drink at least 1 cup of liquid every time you have a loose bowel movement.
- Eat small meals throughout the day instead of three big meals.
- Eat some salty foods, such as pretzels, soup, and sports drinks.
- Eat some high-potassium foods, such as bananas, potatoes without the skin, and watered-down fruit juices.
If your child has samonella, give your child fluids for the first 4 to 6 hours. At first, try 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of fluid every 30 to 60 minutes.
- Infants should continue to breastfeed and receive electrolyte replacement solutions as recommended by your child's health care provider.
- You can use an over-the-counter drink, such as Pedialyte or Infalyte. Do not water down these drinks.
- You can also try Pedialyte popsicles.
- Watered-down fruit juice or broth may also help.
Medicines that slow diarrhea are usually not given because they may make the infection last longer. If you have severe symptoms, your health care provider may prescribe antibiotics.
If you take water pills or diuretics, you may need to stop taking them when you have diarrhea. Ask your health care provider.
Your doctor might recommend antibiotics if you:
- Have diarrhea more than 9 or 10 times per day
- Have a high fever
- Need to be in the hospital
In otherwise healthy people, symptoms should go away in 2 to 5 days, but they may last for 1 to 2 weeks.
The bacteria can be shed in the feces of some treated patients for months to a year after the infection. Food handlers who carry salmonella in their body can pass the infection to the people who eat the food they have handled.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if:
- There is blood or pus in your stools
- You have diarrhea and are unable to drink fluids due to nausea or vomiting
- You have a fever above 101°F and diarrhea
- You have signs of dehydration (thirst, dizziness, light-headedness)
- You have recently traveled to a foreign country and developed diarrhea
- Your diarrhea does not get better in 5 days, or it gets worse
If your child has symptoms, call your child's health care provider if your child has:
- A fever above 100.4°F and diarrhea
- Diarrhea that does not get better in 2 days, or it gets worse
- Been vomiting for more than 12 hours (in a newborn under 3 months, you should call as soon as vomiting or diarrhea begin)
- Reduced urine output, sunken eyes, sticky or dry mouth, or no tears when crying
Learning how to prevent food poisoning can reduce the risk of this infection.
- Proper food handling and storage can help reduce the risk. Good handwashing when handling eggs, poultry, and other foods is important.
- If you own a reptile, wear gloves when handling the animal or its feces because salmonella can easily pass to humans.
DuPont HL. Approach to the patient with suspected enteric infection. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 291.
Giannella RA. Infectious enteritis and proctocolitis and bacterial food poisoning. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 107.
Semrad CE. Approach to the patient with diarrhea and malabsorption. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 142.
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.