Eggs are a cheap source of protein, but they do require adequate care and attention in order to keep them safe to eat. There are two ways eggs can make you sick. Eggs can either spoil or become contaminated with a food-borne illness. Rotten eggs usually have a dank smell and unusual color or texture, but it is difficult to detect a contaminated egg. If you feel sick to your stomach, have a fever, or experience diarrhea and vomiting within 12 to 72 hours of eating them, you may have come in contact with bad eggs.
The most common food-borne illness to affect eggs is salmonella. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 40,000 cases of salmonella are reported every year in the United States, and children are at greater risk than adults. The salmonella germ can get into the egg through cracks in the shell, where it multiplies and produces a toxin that gives you symptoms resembling a stomach flu: fever, diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps that start within one to three days of eating the contaminated food. The symptoms usually last less than a week and go away on their own, but some people get so sick they have to be hospitalized.
Both raw and cooked eggs can go bad. Keep raw eggs refrigerated at all times, and check the expiration date on the package. When you crack the egg, if it has a strong smell or if the white has taken on a blue-green color, toss it out. Tiny red specks on the yolk and cloudy-white yolks are both safe to eat. Once you boil eggs, eat them within seven days or throw them out. If you detect a strong smell from the boiled egg when you crack it, don't eat it. Don't keep cooked egg dishes like strata, custard or quiche in the refrigerator for more than a day before eating or throwing them away.
Good kitchen hygiene can help you avoid bad eggs. Refrigerate your eggs as soon as you buy them. If you have a long drive home from the store, bring a cooler for your cold items. Always wash your hands before cooking and make sure your pans and spatulas are clean. Don't store raw eggs on top of food you might eat raw, like salad greens. Cook eggs completely and avoid eating raw cookie dough or other foods with uncooked eggs.
In most cases, your body will recover from the symptoms of bad eggs within a few days. While you are sick, try to stay hydrated by drinking water, ginger ale, or diluted sports drinks. If you are very old or young, or have a compromised immune system, call your doctor. If vomiting and diarrhea persist for more than a few days and you start to see symptoms of dehydration like dizziness and light-headedness, or if you have blood in your stools, call your physician.