Salmonella Infection (Salmonellosis) in Children

Man helping girl wash hands in bathroom sink.

Salmonella infection (also called salmonellosis) is an intestinal illness caused by Salmonella bacteria. Some animals (such as all domestic reptiles and birds) often carry Salmonella but are not ill. You or your child can be infected from eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Contamination occurs when food or water comes in contact with stool from infected people or animals. Beef, pork, chicken, eggs, and unpasteurized milk are more likely to have Salmonella than other foods. Salmonella is most often passed through food that hasn’t been cooked well enough or that contacts raw meat or eggs.

What are common symptoms of Salmonella infection?

The following symptoms can appear 12 to 72 hours after infection:

  • Fever

  • Stomach cramps

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Nausea

Your child can also be infected and have no symptoms at all.

How is Salmonella infection diagnosed?

The doctor examines your child. A stool sample is requested to check for the presence of Salmonella. More than one stool sample may be needed.

How is Salmonella infection treated?

  • The illness can last 5 to 7 days.

  • Medicines that kill bacteria (antibiotics) may be prescribed if needed. But most children get better with no treatment and in some cases antibiotics may make the illness last longer. If antibiotics are prescribed, be sure your child finishes all of the medicine.

  • Don’t give your child antidiarrheal medicine unless told to by your child's healthcare provider. It can make the illness last longer and decrease the body’s ability to get rid of Salmonella.

  • Give your child plenty of water or a children’s electrolyte solution to drink. This helps prevent dehydration.

  • It may take several weeks for the bacteria to clear from your child’s body even after symptoms have gone away.

Call your child's healthcare provider if your child:

  • Has severe diarrhea that lasts longer than 2 days.

  • Shows signs of dehydration (very dark or little urine, excessive thirst, dry mouth, no tears when crying, or dizziness).

  • Cries and can’t be consoled.

  • Seems very tired, slow-moving, or doesn’t respond.

How can Salmonella infection be prevented?

To prevent your child from passing on a Salmonella infection:

  • Clean your child’s bottom well when changing diapers. Afterward, wash your hands with soap and water. Do the same for your child.

  • Keep your child home from daycare or school until cleared by the healthcare provider.

To lessen the chances of a Salmonella infection in the future:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water often. Do this before preparing meals or eating food, after going to the bathroom, or handling pets. Teach your child to do the same.

  • Use a food thermometer when cooking. Cook poultry to at least 165°F (73.8°C). Cook pork, beef, and lamb cuts to at least 145°F (62.7°C). Cook ground meats to at least 160°F (71.1°C). Cook egg dishes to at least 160°F (71.1°C). Cook single eggs until the yolks are firm, not runny. Wash or peel fruits and vegetables before eating.

  • Wash cutting boards and utensils with hot water and soap after each use. Clean kitchen counters with bleach or disinfectant.