Food poisoning: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, and Prevention
What is Food Poisoning?
Caused by infectious organisms like bacteria, viruses, parasites and other toxins in the food, food poisoning is an illness that occurs when you consume contaminated food. The food generally gets contaminated at any stage of food processing or production or sometimes when the food is cooked or handled incorrectly. The symptoms of food poisoning could start within a few hours of consuming contaminated food and could last for a few days. The symptoms would generally include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
More often than not, food poisoning is mild and may resolve without treatment, however many times people might need to visit a doctor or hospital for the same. One should most definitely see a doctor if the symptoms are severe, for example if you have high fever, blood in stool, if you’re feeling dehydrated or if you are unable to hold down any food or liquid.
What Are The Symptoms Of Food Poisoning?
Symptoms of food poisoning generally depend on the source and severity of the infection. How long you take to recover and how long your infection will last also depends on the source of your infection. Food poisoning could last from a minimum of one day to a maximum of 28 days. If you have food poisoning, you might show the following symptoms:
- Stomach cramps
- loss of appetite
- mild fever
Over and above this, there are some other symptoms that are more serious that you need to be careful about:
- If diarrhea last for three days or more
- If the fever temperature is more than 101.5°F
- If you struggling with seeing or speaking
- If you are showing signs of severe dehydration. This would include symptoms like having a dry mouth, passing little to no urine or having a bloody urine
Incase you are showing any of these symptoms, it is advisable to reach out to a doctor.
How Does Diagnosis Of Food Poisoning Work?
Generally, a doctor will be able to diagnose whether or not you have food poisoning based on your symptoms. If yours is a severe case, then blood tests, stool tests, and tests on food that you have eaten might be conducted to determine the cause of the infection. To determine whether or not you are dehydrated because of food poisoning, a urine test might also be conducted.
Who Is At The Risk For Food Poisoning?
Anyone can come down with food poisoning, however there are some people who are more at risk than the others. People who have a suppressed immune system or an auto-immune disease have higher chances of getting an infection and greater risk of complications if they get an infection.
High-risk groups include:
- The Elderly & Older Adults – Older people have a weaker immune system wherein their immune system may not respond quickly or effectively to infections.
- Pregnant Women – During pregnancy, changes occur in the metabolism and circulation. And this sometimes tends to increase the risk of food poisoning. Sometimes the reaction to the infection may be more severe during pregnancy, and in rare cases, it could make the baby sick too.
- Infants and Young Children – immune systems of young children aren’t haven’t fully developed, unlike adults and thus they are at a much higher risk.
- People with Chronic Diseases – If someone’s suffering from chronic conditions such as diabetes, liver disease or AIDS, receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer then that also reduces one’s immune response
What Does The Treatment Of Food Poisoning Comprise?
When cases of food poisoning are not severe, food poisoning can usually be treated at home, the infection will mostly resolve in three to five days.
There are over-the-counter medications that can help control diarrhea and suppress nausea. However, you should consult a doctor before taking these medications, as vomiting and diarrhea is the body’s way to rid the system of the toxin. Also, there’s a possibility that taking such medications would mask the severity of the illness and cause you to delay seeking a doctor’s treatment.
When you have food poisoning, one of the most important things is to remain hydrated. Drinking sports drinks high in electrolytes, fruit juices, coconut water, etc can be useful in replenishing carbohydrates and will also aid with the fatigue. Decaffeinated teas with useful herbs such chamomile, peppermint, and dandelion may also help with an upset stomach. You should also make sure to avoid caffeine, since it may irritate your digestive tract.
In some severe cases, people might require hydration through intravenous (IV) fluids at a hospital. In extreme cases, longer hospitalization might be required till the patient fully recovers.
When you have food poisoning it is also important to get plenty of rest.
In severe cases of food poisoning, individuals may require hydration with intravenous (IV) fluids at a hospital. Longer hospitalization may be required if the patient needs more time to recover and recuperate.
Some important steps to take to control nausea and vomiting:
- It is best to avoid solid foods until vomiting ends. You should eat light, bland foods, such as bananas, rice, or bread.
- You should sip liquids to avoid vomiting.
- It is not advisable to eat fried, greasy, spicy, or sweet foods.
- Do not take anti-nausea or anti-diarrhea medication without consulting your doctor, since these medicines have side effects and may make your diarrhea worse.
To prevent dehydration:
- Drink a lot of clear fluids.
- If vomiting and diarrhea lasts for more than 24 hours, drink an oral rehydration solution.
What Should You Eat When You Have Food Poisoning?
It is advisable to avoid solid foods and stay on a liquid diet till vomiting and diarrhea gets better. However, once you feel better, you can start having foods that are low in fat and bland. For example, you can consume foods like plain rice, banana, chicken broth, boiled vegetables, etc.
What Should You Not Eat When You Have Food Poisoning?
During food poisoning, you should avoid eating foods that are difficult to digest. For example:
- Dairy Products like Milk & Cheese
- Foods that are very fatty or even spicy and fried foods
- Foods that are very high in sugar
Over and above this, you should also avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine containing drinks such as coffee, soda or energy drinks.
To Prevent Food Poisoning At Home:
- Make sure to wash your hands, utensils, and food surfaces well. Also wash your hands with hot water and soap before and after handling or preparing food. You can also use hot, soapy water to wash utensils, cutting boards and other surfaces that you use while cooking.
- It is advisable to separate raw foods from ready-to-eat foods. When you are shopping, cooking, or storing food, keeping raw meat, poultry, fish and shellfish away from other foods can prevent cross contamination.
- Make sure to cook foods to a safe temperature. It is possible to kill harmful organisms in most foods by cooking them to the right temperature. The best way to confirm if foods are cooked to a right temperature is to use a food thermometer.
- The foods which are perishable, you should refrigerate or freeze them as soon as possible – ideally within two hours of buying or making them.
- It is important to defrost food carefully. If you are using a microwave to defrost frozen food, make sure to cook it immediately.
- If you are unsure about whether or not the food has been prepared or stored safely, don’t take any chances and just throw it out. Sometimes, even when the food looks or smells fine, it might not be safe to eat.
How To Differentiate Between Stomach Flu & Food Poisoning?
Stomach Flu and Food Poisoning may not be the same thing, since it depends on the infectious, causative agent in the contaminated food. Stomach flu is a generic term that is used to describe an ailment that resolves itself within 24 hours and is most commonly caused by the adenovirus, Norwalk virus or rotavirus. Doctors and medical professionals generally equate stomach flu to viral gastroenteritis.
Treatment For Food Poisoning in Dubai | First Response Healthcare
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