If you gulp down food or water containing bacteria, parasites, viruses, or toxins made by some germs then you are surely the victim of food poisoning. Nearly all cases of food poisoning are from common bacteria and exotoxinssuch as Staphylococcus or E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter, Botulism (Clostridium botulinum) Clostridium perfringens, Staphylococcus aureus Bacillus cereus.
According to the survey of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States, food poisoning brings about 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and up to 5,000 deaths every year. One of the most common bacterial forms of infection, the salmonella’s organisms, comprises $1 billion in medical fees and lost work time.
In Australia, there are an estimated 5.4 million cases of food-borne illness every year, resulting:
- 18,000 hospitalizations
- 120 deaths
- 2.1 million lost days off work
- 1.2 million need doctor consultations
- 300,000 prescriptions for antibiotics
Globally, diarrheal illnesses are one of the leading causes of death. Travelers to developing countries often suffer from food poisoning in the form of traveler’s diarrhea or “Montezuma’s revenge”. In this century the world faces the biggest threat from the terrorist actions which try to destroy the
Food poisoning can affect anybody who ate the same contaminated food. It mostly occurs after taking food at picnics, school cafeterias, large social functions, or restaurants.
The germs may penetrate into the food you eat (called contamination) in distinct ways:
Meat or poultry can be contaminated with the normal bacteria from the intestines
of an animal that is being processed.
Water that is used during growing or shipping can contain manure or human
Food contains germs during the period of handling or preparation in grocery
stores, restaurants, or homes.
Food poisoning most commonly occurs from eating or drinking:
Any food prepared by someone who does not care about appropriate hand
At the time of food preparation the used cooking utensils, cutting boards, and
other tools are not fully cleaned properly.
Dairy products or food containing mayonnaise (e.g. coleslaw or potato salad) that
has kept out of the refrigerator for a long period.
Frozen or refrigerated foods that are not stored at the correct temperature or are
not reheated correctly
- Raw fish or oysters
- Raw fruits or vegetables which have not been cleaned well
- Raw vegetables or fruit juices and dairy (“pasteurized”) products.
- Undercooked meats or eggs
- Water from a well or stream, or city or town water that has not been filtered.
Usually the signs and symptoms of the most common type of food poisoning start within 2 – 6 hours of having the food or water. That period of suffering may be longer (even a number of days) or shorter, depending on the cause of the food poisoning.
- Possible symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Diarrhea (may be bloody)
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness (may be serious and lead to respiratory arrest, as in the case of botulism)
Exams and Tests
Your health care provider will check your signs of food poisoning, such as tenderness in the abdomen and dehydration. Then your provider will also ask about the foods you have eaten of late.
- Tests to find the cause of your ill health:
- Leftover food
These tests may or may not be able to verify the reasons behind your poor condition. A thorough examination is essential, including measurements of blood pressure, pulse, breathing rate, and temperature. A urine sample helps to assess the level of dehydration of the patient and can indicate probable kidney damage.
In rare but possibly severe cases, your health care provider may advise one or more of the following actions:
A thin, tube-like tool positioned in the anus to search for the source of bleeding or
A test to measure electric impulses in the muscles (electromyography) to examine
Self-Care at Home
A small period of vomiting and small amounts of diarrhea staying less than 24 hours can usually be treated at home.
Do not eat solid food while nauseous or vomiting but drink plenty of fluids.
Small, frequent sips of clear liquids (those you can see through) are the best option to stay hydrated. Avoid dairy products, which can deteriorate diarrhea (due to a temporary state of lactose intolerance).
Stay away from alcoholic, caffeinated, or sugary drinks. Over-the-counter rehydration products made for children such as Pedialyte and Rehydralyte are costly but useful if available.
Sports drinks e.g. Gatorade and Powerade are fine for adults if they are diluted with water because those original drinks contain too much sugar, which can worsen diarrhea.
You can buy medicines at the drugstore that help to slow diarrhea. If you have bloody diarrhea or a fever do not use these medicines without consulting your health care provider. Do not give these medicines to children.
If the toxins from mushrooms or shellfish enter into your stomach, you will need medical attention immediately. The emergency room doctor will take steps to flush out your stomach and remove the toxin.
If you have serious kind of diarrhea and are unable to drink fluids (for example, due to nausea or vomiting), you may need medical attention and fluids should be given through a vein (by IV). This is especially happens to children.
Anti-vomiting and diarrhea medications may be prescribed.
The doctor may also have to treat the fever (if any) to make the patient more relieved.
Antibiotics are hardly needed for food poisoning. In some cases, antibiotics deteriorate the condition. Occasionally in some cases the condition is improved by using these medications. The duration of illness in traveler’s diarrhea (shigellae) can be diminished with antibiotics.
In cases of mushroom poisoning or eating foods polluted with pesticides, emergency treatment like pumping the stomach (lavage) or giving medications as antidotes is required. These poisonings are very critical and may need intensive care in the hospital.
Preventing food poisoning
- Buy cold foods at the end of your shopping trip. Get them home quickly.
- Never pick up torn or leaking packages.
- Do not buy foods past their “sell-by” or expiration dates.
- Keep raw meat and poultry separately from other foods.
Safe storage of foods
Keep it safe; refrigerate.
Firstly unpack perishable foods and immediately refrigerate them. Place raw meat, poultry, or fish in the coldest section of your refrigerator.
Make sure the temperature of your appliances. To minimize the bacterial growth, the refrigerator should be at 40°F, the freezer at 0°F.
To prevent food poisoning, take the following steps when preparing food:
Carefully clean your hands frequently and always before cooking. Always wash them again after touching raw meat.
Clean dishes and utensils that have had any contact with raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs.
Use a thermometer when cooking. Cook beef to at least 160°F, poultry to at least 180°F, and fish to at least 140°F.
DO NOT leave cooked meat or fish back onto the same plate or container that held the raw meat, unless the container has been completely washed.
Promptly refrigerate any food that you will not eat immediately. Fix the refrigerator around 40°F and your freezer at or below 0°F. DO NOT eat meat, poultry, or fish that has been refrigerated uncooked for more than 1 to 2 days.
Cook frozen foods for the exact time recommended on the package.
DO NOT use expired foods, packaged food with a broken seal, or cans that are bulging or have an indentation.
DO NOT take foods that have an unusual odor or a spoiled taste.
DO NOT drink water from streams or wells that are not treated. Only drink water that has been treated or chlorinated.
Thawing food safely
Refrigerator: Allows slow, safe thawing. Make sure thawing juices do not drip on other foods.
Cold water: For faster defrosting, keep food in a leak-proof plastic bag and dip in cold tap water.
Microwave: Cook meat and poultry immediately after microwave defrosting.
Other steps to take:
If you take care of children, wash your hands frequently and dispose of diapers carefully so that bacteria can’t spread to other surfaces or people.
If you formulate canned food at home, be sure to follow proper canning techniques to prevent botulism.
DO NOT feed honey to the children less than 1 year of age.
DO NOT eat wild mushrooms.
In the time of traveling the risk of contamination is more likely, eat only hot, freshly cooked food. Drink only boiled water. DO NOT eat raw vegetables or unpeeled fruit.
DO NOT eat shellfish that has been exposed to red tides.
If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system, DO NOT eat soft cheeses, especially soft cheeses imported from countries other than U.S.
If other people may have eaten the same polluted food that made you sick, let them know. If you think that the food was contaminated at the time of buying or before your presence in the store or restaurant, inform the store and your local health department.