When you have a young child, if you look away for just one second, anything can happen! She crawls or walks to a place she shouldn’t be or grabs something and puts it in her mouth, whether or not it’s actually edible.

Let’s say you’re busy cooking dinner for your whole family in the kitchen with your curious little one by your side, and you slice up some raw chicken for a stir fry. As you search the kitchen for spices, your little one reaches up on the counter, grabs a piece of chicken, and puts it in his mouth. Yikes!

You may be thinking, “Should I call the doctor? Will my child get sick?”

Young children, especially those under 5 years old, are at a high risk of becoming severely ill when exposed to food-borne pathogens and contaminated foods. When it comes to raw chicken, there are three types of bacteria you should be concerned with: Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Clostridium perfringens.

For both Campylobacter and Salmonella, the symptoms are very similar: diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever. For both, symptoms can occur within about one to five days after infection, and they typically last about a week. However, Campylobacter may spread to the bloodstream and cause a serious, life-threatening illness.

Although Clostridium perfringens is one of the most common food-borne illnesses in the U.S., the symptoms (diarrhea and abdominal cramps) usually appear and resolve rapidly, within just twenty-four hours. In some cases, like with a young child, symptoms may last for up to 1–2 weeks, and this can increase the risk for dehydration.

When should I start to worry?

That depends. If your child doesn’t show signs of stomach pain, or no other symptoms are present within about five days of the incident, your child is probably perfectly fine.

The Centers for Disease Prevention & Control recommends that you call the doctor if your child has a fever greater than 101.5, diarrhea for more than three days (that isn’t improving), bloody stool, prolonged vomiting, and dizziness when standing up, little to no urine production, and dry throat and mouth (signs of dehydration).


  • Young children are at high risk of food-borne illnesses.
  • Raw chicken contains three possible dangerous bacteria.
  • Diarrhea is the most common symptom of food poisoning.
  • Call a doctor if your child has a fever, diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, or other serious symptoms.


Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Chicken and Food Poisoning.


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