Food poisoning occurs when you eat food contaminated with bacteria or other toxins. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps, and generally start 4 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food. Harmful bacteria are the most common cause of food-borne illness. Foods may have some bacteria on them when you buy them. Raw meat may become contaminated during slaughter. Fruits and vegetables may become contaminated when they are growing or when they are processed. But it can also happen in your kitchen if you leave food out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
Causes of Food Poisoning
Food poisoning is caused by any of the following:
Symptoms of Food Poisoning
Symptoms range from mild to serious. They include:-
- Upset stomach
- Abdominal cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
Diagnosis of Food Poisoning
Food poisoning is usually a mild illness that may resolve on its own after a bout of stomach upset. However, in some cases it might be more serious needing therapy. However, sometimes blood tests, tests for the infected stools or even a sigmoidoscopy and other imaging tests may be required.
Treatment of Food Poisoning
Food poisoning usually resolves by itself in a few days. In most cases rest, isolation, maintenance of hygiene and plenty of fluids is the best treatment for food poisoning.
- Fluids. There is a severe loss of salts and electrolytes with vomiting and diarrhea. There is need to replenish these as well as the fluid. Thus drinking water alone does not help and sometimes may be harmful as there is further deprivation of salts. For therapy of continuous diarrhea and vomiting thus Oral Rehydration Salt Solution (ORS) is recommended.
- Antibiotics. Antibiotics may be prescribed if the cause of the food poisoning is detected. In most cases this is not required. In case of parasitic infections or protozoal infestations specific antibiotics are needed.
- Probiotics. Probiotics can help restore the balance of good bacteria in the intestine. These are handy for travellers to an area where the food and water may be contaminated.
Prevention of Food Poisoning
Food poisoning can be prevented by following measures:-
- Washing hands before cooking or eating and after touching raw meat or food
- Dishes and utensils need to be adequately cleaned
- Cook eggs until they are solid, not runny
- Use a thermometer when cooking beef (to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit), poultry (to at least 180 degrees Fahrenheit), or fish (to at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Foods beyond their “use by” dates should not be consumed
- Water that is cleaned and filtered should be taken
- While caring for an adult or child with diarrhea, hands should be washed after any contact with possible infected material
- Canned food should be used carefully to avoid botulism
- Honey may cause food poisoning in infants below 1 tear. Honey should not be given to them to prevent botulism
- Wild mushrooms, raw sea and shell fish (especially ones exposed to red tides) should not be consumed. Puffer fish preparations must be taken only from licensed restaurants to avoid acute often fatal poisoning
- While travelling extra care to consume only clean water and freshly cooked food should be taken
- Those with pregnancy and weak immunity need to be extra careful not to consume spoilt or suspicious food, raw fish, cheese etc. to avoid food poisoning