Food poisoning occurs when you take in water or food that contains harmful germs such as bacteria, viruses, or parasites. In most cases, these germs produces toxins that makes the food or water poisonous. The toxins are commonly transferred through processing and storage due to improper handling of food.
We can’t taste, smell, or see these germs (at least not without a microscope). But even though they’re tiny, they can have a powerful effect on the body.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Food Poisoning?
How food poisoning shows up depends on the germ that caused it. Sometimes a person will start to feel sick within an hour or two of eating or drinking contaminated food or liquid. However, at other times, symptoms may not appear for a number of weeks. In most cases, symptoms will clear up within 1 to 10 days.
The main symptoms include:
- feeling sick (nausea)
- diarrhoea, which may contain blood or mucus
- stomach cramps and abdominal (tummy) pain
- a lack of energy and weakness
- loss of appetite
- a high temperature (fever)
- aching muscles
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if you have:
- Blood or pus in your stools
- Diarrhea and are unable to drink fluids due to nausea and vomiting
- A fever above 101°F (38.3°C), or your child has a fever above 100.4°F (38°C) along with diarrhea
- Signs of dehydration such as thirst, dizziness, lightheadedness)
- Recently travelled to a foreign country and developed diarrhea
- Diarrhea that has not gotten better in 5 days (2 days for an infant or child), or has gotten worse
What causes food poisoning?
Often, people get food poisoning from animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products and seafood. But unwashed fruits, vegetables, and other raw foods also can be contaminated and make people sick. Even water can cause food poisoning. It is more common after eating at picnics, school cafeterias, large social functions, or restaurants. Common sources of food poisoning include:
- Raw or undercooked meat or poultry
- Unpasteurized dairy products
- Cooks or other food handlers can contaminate foods if they don’t wash their hands. Also use of unclean utensils or cutting boards.
- Keeping cooked food unrefrigerated for a long period
- Meat or poultry can come into contact with bacteria from the intestines of an animal that is being processed.
- Water that is used during growing or shipping can contain animal or human waste
- Dairy products or food containing mayonnaise (such as coleslaw or potato salad) that have been out of the refrigerator too long .
Many types of germs and toxins may cause food poisoning, including:
- Campylobacter enteritis
- E coli enteritis
- Toxins in spoiled or tainted fish or shellfish
- Staphylococcus aureus
Most of the time, it runs it’s own course and people get better on their own. Occasionally, though, doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat more severe types of bacterial food poisoning. Someone with dehydration such as dry mouth, cracked lips may be treated in a hospital with intravenous (IV) fluids.
Taking Care of Yourself at Home
Food poisoning usually goes away on its own in a few days. You can do a few things to take care of yourself:
Drink rehydration fluids frequently
There are powders that you can mix with water and drink. They help replace minerals and nutrients that you are losing through vomiting and diarrheoa. Usually, you can buy them from pharmacies and drug stores. You can also make your own rehydration fluid by mixing 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 4 tablespoons of sugar into a 1 litre of water. Stir until the ingredients are dissolved before drinking.
Drink plenty of liquids and fluids
If you are experiencing frequent vomiting and diarrheoa, the body loses fluids which results in dehydration. Drink as much liquid as you can to replace lost fluids. Don’t drink a lot at a time but, take several small sips frequently. Immediately go to the hospital if you have severe nausea and cannot sip. Because, you may need to be take intravenous fluid as provision.
Avoid dairy products for a few days
As your body fights against the food poisoning, your digestive system will experience a temporary state of lactose intolerance. Because of this, avoid any dairy products that you consume such as butter, milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. Avoid consuming dairy products until your body has returned to normal.
Get plenty of rest
It is likely that you will feel fatigued as your body fights to rid the toxins from your system. It is recommended that you rest as much as you can. This is to help your body use its energy to recover. Take frequent naps, which will also keep you from over-using yourself.
Give your stomach a break
Don’t eat large meals or lots of solid food. Chances are these won’t sound good anyway, but your body needs a chance to recover from whatever toxin or bacteria has made you sick. Avoid eating very much for the first day or two that you have food poisoning symptoms.
Avoid foods that can trigger nausea or vomiting
Take care to avoid spicy or fatty foods. Because, they can be difficult for you to digest. You should also cut out high-fibre foods that can also be tough on your stomach.
Finally, wash your hands frequently
If you’re experiencing vomiting or diarrheoa, it’s important that you wash your hands to prevent the spread of germs. Also, don’t share towels or handle other people’s food.
How Can We Prevent Food Poisoning?
Follow these tips to help protect your family from food poisoning:
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
- Clean counter-tops, cutting boards, knives, and utensils before exposing them to different food items.
- Wash your hands and utensils often.
- Don’t put raw and cooked meats on the same plate.
- If knives have been used to cut up uncooked chicken, do not use them to cut up other ingredients that will not be cooked.
- Cook meat thoroughly. Use a meat thermometer if needed. Make sure beef is cooked to at least 160°F, chicken and other poultry to 180°F, and fish to 140°F.
- Don’t use packaged food that has expired..
- Refrigerate leftover food if it isn’t going to be eaten within 4 hours.
- Don’t eat soft cheeses (especially imported) if you are pregnant or have a weak immune system.
- When at restaurants or social gatherings, avoid foods that have been left out of the refrigerator for long periods of time.