Here’s a question that has come across our minds—what to do if you have food poisoning.
But first off, what is food poisoning? Food poisoning or foodborne illness is an ailment that you can get when you ate a contaminated food. The meal you just ate might be exposed to several bacteria like Escherichia coli or salmonella. Some food might contain viruses, parasites, or even toxins to be contaminated.
Luckily, this infection is not common. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found out that one in six Americans are victims of food poisoning yearly. Although the foodborne disease is not that serious, it is still better that you get treated once the signs show up.
Continue reading this article to find out the symptoms, causes, and treatment of food poisoning.
Signs of Food Poisoning
Symptoms of food poisoning can show up hours after eating the contaminated food. The following are the signs you need to look out for:
- Cramps or abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Aching muscles
- Double vision
The indicators of this sickness may vary depending on the contamination found on the food. You might experience only one of these, or in some cases, all.
There are some victims of food poisoning that eventually get better without treatment. But if you feel any of the following, then you must consider going to the doctor:
- Bloody urine
- Severe dehydration
- Diarrhea for three days
- Fever higher than 101.5°F
- Having difficulty in speaking and seeing
- Extreme pain in the abdomen
Take note that not all signs immediately show up. There are symptoms that can appear after a few days as well.
Tests for Food Poisoning
There are several tests that you need to take for you to check if what you have is food poisoning.
These are stool cultures, blood tests, and imaging tests.
1. Stool cultures
This is the most common test for those who have food poisoning. You are recommended to take this test when you have an intense pain in your stomach or when you have a high fever. You will then provide the hospital or clinic with a sample of your stool. It is important to note that stool cultures take a few days before the results come out.
2. Blood tests
If your doctor thinks that the bacteria were able to spread in your blood, you might undergo a blood test. This exam can evaluate how sick you are depending on the inflammation found in your blood.
3. Imaging tests
Although it is not as common as blood and tool tests, CT scans and MRIs can help in checking your illness based on the symptoms that you have.
Causes of Food Poisoning
Viruses can contaminate your food during production or processing. There can be even times when contamination can happen when the food is not properly cooked. Some studies show that the most common way of contamination is through cross-contamination. This is when viruses are transferred from one food to another, causing the food to be toxic.
Most foods that have a high chance of getting spoiled are salads or other ready-to-eat meals. This is because the harmful organisms in that food are not destroyed since these meals are not cooked. Some organisms that can cause food poisoning are the following:
- Clostridium botulinum
- Clostridium perfringens
- Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157: H7
- Giardia lamblia
- Hepatitis A
- Noroviruses (Norwalk-like viruses)
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Vibrio vulnificus
Food poisoning is not limited to food only. You can also have this ailment through contaminated water.
Food Poisoning Treatment
Almost all cases of food poisoning are cured after a few days, usually three to five, depending on the food that you ate. Here are the different ways you can treat this sickness:
- Keep yourself dehydrated. You can drink sports drinks, preferably those with high electrolytes. You can also try coconut water and fruit juice.
- Avoid caffeine. Caffeine can further upset your stomach so it is recommended that you avoid it at all cost.
- Take medicine. You can take over-the-counter medications like Pepto-Bismol and Imodium. These can help cure diarrhea and nausea. Be wary, though, not all medicines can work in your body so be sure that you only buy the drug prescribed by your doctor.
- Rest. The signs of food poisoning may weaken your body that is why it recommended that you take adequate rest.
- Take intravenous (IV) fluids. This is only applicable to those with severe cases.
- Eat easy-to-digest food. When you have a foodborne illness, it is better that you eat food that is easy to digest, including the following:
- Boiled vegetables
- Bland potatoes
- Saltine crackers
- Chicken broth
Patients with the worst cases are required to go to the hospital for more examinations and treatment.
Prevention for Food Poisoning
There are a lot of ways that you can do to prevent food poisoning, especially at home. Take note of these:
- Separate raw foods from ready-to-eat goods
- Refrigerate your food
- Cook your food in a safe temperature
- Wash your hands and utensils properly
- Defrost immediately
- Throw the food if you feel that it is already spoiled
Unfortunately, older people, infants, young children, pregnant women, and those with chronic diseases are most likely the victims of food poisoning. This is because their immune system tends to be weaker compared with other people.
If you are part of any of the above-mentioned groups, it is better that you keep yourself healthy by limiting yourself from eating raw goods. As they say, prevention is always better than cure.
Foodborne illness or food poisoning is an uncommon ailment that you can get by eating contaminated food. A toxic food contains harmful organisms that are usually received when the food is not handled properly. This is why to prevent getting food poisoned, it is best that you cook your food properly and maintain a good hygiene by washing your hands regularly. Otherwise, you might end up feeling nauseous, dehydrated, or worse, be hospitalized for weeks.