Food-borne illnesses or food poisoning is caused by the consumption of polluted food. Contagious organisms that include bacteria, parasites, viruses plus other toxins are the universal causes of food poisoning. Infectious organisms contaminate food at any point during processing and handling. Contamination can also occur at home if food is not handled or cooked properly.
The most common symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, diarrhea or vomiting. These symptoms can start just hours after eating contaminated foods. Generally food poisoning resolves itself without treatment, but there are some cases severe enough to require hospitalization.
If you experience fever, stomach cramps and general feelings of malaise, just hours after eating, you may want to consider food-poisoning. If your symptoms are severe enough, it is advisable to head to your local emergency room.
Food contamination can occur during growing, harvesting, processing, or shipping and preparing. Storing also causes contamination possibilities. Cross contamination or the transfer of harmful organisms from one surface to another is generally the cause. Raw and ready to eat foods similar to lettuce and spinach salads and produce are particularly susceptible to harmful organisms.
Some types of contaminants are called campylobacters which causes symptoms within two days. This contamination comes from meat and poultry and contagion generally happens during processing. Unpasteurized milk and contaminated water also contain this bug. Another contamination, clostridium botulin makes you feel awful within about twelve to seventy-two hours. The culprits are often home canned foods with low acidity, commercial foods that are improperly canned as well as potatoes baked in aluminum foils. Watch out for E.coli will give you distress within one day of eating contaminated foods. Beef that are contaminated with feces during slaughter, undercooked ground beef and unpasteurized apple cider plus contaminated water are causes of E.coli. Giardia lamblia takes a bit longer to hit, up to two weeks. Giardia comes from raw and ready to eat produce and contaminated water. Giardia can also be spread by an infected person handling your food.
There are many more contaminates and one particularly bad one is listeria. Listeria brings your body to its knees within nine hours and comes mainly from hot dogs, lunch meats, and unpasteurized milk and cheeses. Unwashed raw produce will give you listeria. This bug is spread through contaminated silt and water.
Food poisoning can be prevented by hygiene. Wash your hands, food surfaces and utensils often and with warm water and soap. Use hot water to wash utensils and cutting boards. You might want to use a disinfectant if you have cut raw chicken on your cutting board.
Keep your raw foods away from ready to eat foods. When you shop or prepare food make sure that raw meat and poultry, fish and shellfish are not near other foods. Keep them covered to prevent cross contamination.
Make sure foods are cooked to a safe temperature. Use a food thermometer. You can kill harmful organisms in foods by cooking them to the right temperature. Ground beef should be cooked until it is 160 F, steaks and roasts should be cook to at least 145 F and pork likes 160F. Chicken and turkey need to be cooked to 165 F and you can have a nice fish well cooked at 145 F.
When you get home from the store, freeze or refrigerate perishable foods as soon as possible. Do not let fresh foods sit out on the counter and never refreeze food that is partially thawed. Defrost your foods safely. Room temperature thawing is not safe. Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator or microwave using the defrost cycle. You may also defrost foods by running cold water over foods until they are thawed.
If you have questions on how foods are prepared, served or stored properly, throw it away. Food that is left at room temperature too long will contain toxins that are not destroyed by heat and cooking. Don’t taste food that you are unsure of – just throw it away.
Young children, pregnant women and older adults plus those with weak immune systems should always take extra precautions with their foods. Never eat raw or rare meat, avoid raw eggs, and do not eat raw sprouts. Avoid unpasteurized juices and ciders and milk products and stay away from feta, Brie and Camembert cheeses. Do not eat refrigerated meat spreads and never eat raw hot dogs, luncheon meat or deli meats.
In a normal healthy person food poisoning will improve on its own within 48 hours. You do need to stay comfortable and prevent dehydration. Let your stomach settle and do not eat or drink for a few hours. Suck on ice chips or drink very small sips of water. You can also drink clear sodas and clear broths. Non caffeinated sports drinks are good.
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Ease yourself back into eating habits. Eat bland and easy to digest foods at first. These might include toast, gelatin, bananas and rice. If you have a return of vomiting or nausea, stop eating. Avoid all dairy products, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. Stay away from highly seasoned or fatty foods until you are well.
Get plenty of rest and avoid anti-diarrhea medications. Drugs that are used to treat diarrhea will slow elimination of bacteria and toxins from your system. These will make your food poisoning worse.
If your food poisoning is severe you doctor might just prescribe antibiotics. Food poisoning caused by listeria must to be treated with intravenous antibiotics in a hospital setting. Do keep hydrated. A severe loss of water and salts and minerals are often the cause of complications in food poisoning. If hydration at home is impossible do go a hospital. Dehydration is fatal.
In older adults food poisoning and be highly life-threatening. You immune system does not respond quickly, and infectious organisms can cause other problems. If you are pregnant your changes in metabolism may increase the risk of food poisoning. You may find that your reactions are very severe during pregnancy. You baby might get sick too, but that is rare. If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes and you have good poisoning, you do need to see your doctor.
If you suffer the complications of vomiting blood, severe diarrhea that lasts up to three days, blood in your bowel movements or frequent episodes of vomiting get to an emergency room or clinic. Severe pain or relentless abdominal cramping is a cause for concern. Oral temperatures higher than 101.5 F are not good. If you have dehydration symptoms or disproportionate thirst, dry mouth, no urination, dizziness or severe weakness these are complications that can be life altering. Do see your physician if you have difficulty speaking, trouble swallowing or have double vision. If you have muscle weaknesses with downward progression do get medical help.
If you suspect you have food poisoning get in touch with your local health department. Reporting food poisoning can give the health department a heads up if there is a possible outbreak. Your report can also prevent others from becoming sick. Do not take food poisoning lightly; it is more than just uncomfortable symptoms.