Some Food For Thought about Food Poisoning
Food poisoning is also referred to as food-borne illness and is caused by consuming contaminated food. Various infectious organisms like viruses, bacteria & parasites or the toxins that are formed due to them, are the common causes of food poisoning. It may be caused by:
- Norovirus– This is a contagious virus that is responsible for over 50% of food-borne illnesses. Generally, it is spread by any kind of unsanitary food preparation. Cooks/ servers who are not particular about washing their hands before handling food can easily spread the nonovirus.
- E. Coli– The Escherichia Coli bacteria is found in intestines of humans & animals. Some strains cause illnesses when they are ingested. These bacteria might contaminate meat while it is being processed and they find their way into foods that have not been prepared safely.
- Salmonella– This bacterium is found in intestines of animals and they can survive in products like eggs and meat. Cooking food at high temperatures is effective in killing all the Salmonella that is present in it.
- Botulism– This is quite a rare, but very serious illness and is caused by the bacteria that thrive in improperly preserved or canned foods.
Food poisoning symptoms can start several hours after consuming contaminated food. In most cases food poisoning is quite mild and gets resolved without any treatment. But in certain severe cases, hospitalization might be required. The symptoms will vary based on the source of the contamination and could be any or all of the following:
- Abdominal pain & cramps
- Watery diarrhoea
In some cases, these symptoms might start within hours post consuming contaminated food, while in others they might start days/weeks later. The sickness that is a result of food poisoning can last from 1-10 days.
When do you Seek Medical Help?
As mentioned earlier, food poisoning generally clears itself with no medical intervention. So how then do you discern when you should see your doctor? If the following symptoms are excessive or do not fade out after a few days, you should seek medical help:
- Frequent vomiting which interferes with your normal ability to keep any liquids in your stomach
- Vomiting blood
- Severe diarrhoea that lasts more than 3 days
- Blood in stool
- Extreme pain/severe abdominal cramping
- Oral temperature above 38.6 C (101.5 F)
- Signs/symptoms of dehydration, like excessive thirst or a dry mouth, severe weakness, little/no urination, light-headedness/dizziness
- Trouble swallowing
- Double vision
- Difficulty speaking
- Muscle weakness which progresses downward
Treating Food Poisoning
Typically, food poisoning treatment depends on the actual source of the illness (if it is known), as well as the severity and the duration of the symptoms. Your doctor will take all these factors into account and then suggest a few treatment options like:
- Replacement of the Lost Fluids– The persistent diarrhoea and vomiting results in loss of electrolytes and fluids from the body. Minerals like potassium, sodium & calcium which maintain the balance of these fluids are also lost and will have to be replaced.
Children as well as adults who are very severely dehydrated will have to be treated in a hospital. They will be given fluids and salts intrav
- Antibiotics– Depending on your condition and the kind of bacterial infection that you are suffering from, the doctor might prescribe antibiotics. Food poisoning that has been caused by listeria will have to be treated with some intravenous antibiotics in a hospital setting. During pregnancy, immediate antibiotic treatment might help in keeping that infection from impacting the unborn child.
Things you Should Do
If you suspect that you are suffering from food poisoning, contact your doctor without delay. If possible, also inform the local health department. They might be able to identify and stem a potential outbreak which can help in preventing other people from falling sick. Your doctor as well as the health department will want to know what you are and where you consumed/obtained the food that made you sick.
Have you ever experienced any food poisoning incident? Have you tried any quick home remedies that have helped? Please share your experience.