Food Poisoning: Symptoms, Prevention, Causes and Treatment
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Food Poisoning: Symptoms, Prevention, Causes and Treatment


Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is also known as food-borne illness caused by eating contaminated, toxic, and spoilt food. Infectious organisms such as bacteria, virus, and parasites and their toxins are the most common agents of food contamination. They can contaminate the food at any stage i.e. processing or production. Food can get contaminated in the home too if not handled or cooked properly. Food Poisoning symptoms can start within hours of eating contaminated food such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. More often, food poisoning is mild and can be cured without any specific treatment. But in some cases, people may need to visit a doctor.


Signs and Symptoms of Food Poisoning

The sign and symptoms of food poisoning generally begin within one or two days of eating toxic food or start at any point between a few hours to several days. The most common symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Appetite loss
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills

In many cases, these symptoms will vanish in a few days, and people will make a full recovery.


Causes of Food Poisoning

Food can become contaminated at any stage during its production: growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping, or preparing. Certain examples as to why it can happen are:

  • Uncooked food
  • Improper freezing of food
  • Keeping cooked food unrefrigerated for an extended period
  • Someone with dirty hands touches the food
  • Consuming foods that have crossed their expiry date limit
  • Cross-contamination

Cross-contamination – A condition where harmful microbes transfer from one surface to another. For example, it can occur with raw, ready-made foods, uncooked food etc. Many bacterial or viral species are agents of food poisoning. Sometimes parasites are also responsible for causing food-borne illness.

  • Bacterial Agents- Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli, etc.
  • Viral Agents Norovirus, rotavirus, etc.
  • Parasitic Agents – Giardiasis, cryptosporidiosis, amoebiasis, etc.

Treating Food Poisoning

  • Most of the time, food poisoning requires no medical advice. It can be treated at home within a few days. But in some severe cases, people may need to take doctor’s advice.

  • It is important to be hydrated by drinking plenty of water, as people need to replace fluid lost through diarrhea or vomiting.

  • Take rest as much as possible.
  • Stick to small, light, and fat-free meals. Follow BRAT diet (banana, rice, apple juice, and toast)

  • Avoid alcohol, fizzy drinks, caffeine, fatty, and spicy foods.

Contact a physician if the symptoms are severe or when you sense no improvement in a few days.


When to See a Doctor

  • If a person is unable to take in any fluids because of repeated vomits
  • No improvement after a few days
  • Having symptoms of severe dehydration, like confusion, sunken eyes, passing little or no urine
  • Food poisoning during pregnancy
  • Food poisoning at the age above 60
  • Weak immune system
  • Having an underlying long-term situation such as inflammatory bowel disease

ORS Oral rehydration solutions (ORS) are advised for people prone to the effects of dehydration. ORS are readily available in pharmacies. You just need to dissolve them in water to drink. They replace salt, glucose, and other essential minerals which your body loses through dehydration.


What to Eat During Food Poisoning

If someone is suffering from food poisoning, try to eat simple-to-digest foods such as:

  • Banana
  • Oatmeal
  • Rice
  • Bland potatoes
  • Boiled vegetables
  • Toast
  • Diluted fruit juices
  • Soda without caffeine

What Not to Eat During Food Poisoning

To prevent the stomach from getting more upset, try to avoid harder-to-digest foods such as:

  • Dairy products
  • Fatty food
  • Fried food
  • Spicy food
  • Food with high sugar content

Also, Avoid:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine

Preventing Food Poisoning

The best way to avoid food poisoning is by maintaining high standards of personal and food hygiene while storing, handling, and preparing.

Cleaning – We can prevent the spread of harmful microbes by maintaining personal hygiene and keep working surfaces and utensils clean. Do handwashing regularly with soap or handwash, mainly:

  • Before preparing food
  • After handling raw food
  • After touching bins or pets
  • After going to the toilet or changing a baby’s diapers

People should not handle food if they are suffering from any kind of stomach illness, such as diarrhea, vomiting, etc.


Cooking – It is very important to cook food

thoroughly, particularly meat and seafood, to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present. Most bacteria get destroyed by heating. Therefore cooking food properly is a preventive measure.

When reheating food, ensure it is steaming hot all the way. Don’t reheat the food more than once.

Freezing – Certain food needs to be stored at a

specific temperature to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying. If the food that needs to be cooled is left at room temperature, bacteria can grow and multiply rapidly. Cooked leftovers should be cooled quickly, ideally within a couple of hours, and kept in the freezer.

Cross-contamination – Cross-contamination is when

bacteria are spread from one food (usually raw foods) to other food products, surfaces and equipment. This may occur when someone touches another food, or when bacteria on your hand, surface, utensils, or equipment are transferred to the food.


How to Prevent Cross-Contamination:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw food.
  • Store uncooked and ready-to-eat foods separately.
  • Store raw meat in sealable containers so that it cannot drip onto other foods.
  • Use a different chopping board for raw food and ready-to-eat food, or wash it thoroughly in between preparing different food.
  • Clean knives and other utensils thoroughly before and after using them.


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Data Sources:

  • https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/food-poisoning#about-food-poisoning
  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-poisoning/symptoms-causes/syc-20356230

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Food Poisoning: Symptoms, Prevention, Causes and Treatment
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Food Poisoning: Symptoms, Prevention, Causes and Treatment
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Read about food poisoning, symptoms, prevention, causes, home remedies and other treatment for food poisoning. Food poisoning is also known as a food borne illness caused by eating contaminated, toxic, and spoilt food.
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