Pediatric Food Poisoning Workup

Updated: Dec 22, 2020
  • Author: Sunil K Sood, MBBS, , MD; Chief Editor: Russell W Steele, MD  more...
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Laboratory Studies

Stool culture is an expensive test with a very low yield and is indicated particularly if patients with food poisoning have bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, or are immunocompromised. When the likely pathogen is a Campylobacter, Yersinia, or Vibrio species, or if Shigalike toxin-producing E coli (eg, E coli O157:H7) is suspected, the laboratory should be notified because special media or incubation conditions (high or low temperature) are required.

Stool examination for parasites is indicated for GI tract illnesses that appear to have occurred after a long incubation period. Certain travel history, such as travel to tropical countries, camping, and drinking well or stream water should prompt consideration of parasitic food-borne illness.

Blood cultures are performed for bacteremic food-borne diseases (FBDs).

Serum electrolyte levels, BUN levels, creatinine levels, CBC count, and urinalysis are performed to assess hydration, renal function, and presence of hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). Evidence of hemolysis and thrombocytopenia are present in patients with HUS.

Toxin testing, serotyping, and molecular techniques are available only from large commercial and public health laboratories. They are generally ordered only as part of an epidemiologic investigation.

Testing of food or vomitus for toxins may be offered by a poison control center or the local health authorities.