Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is the leading cause for hospitalization among adult patients in the United States. It has been estimated that foodborne illness hits 1 in 4 people. It is highly likely for someone to get food poisoning. The odds have not been calculated due to the fact that there are many factors involved. What is more, the causes of the foodborne illness are not very distinct.  Fortunately, individuals can take measures in order to decrease their risk of developing food poisoning. The United States in particular have a long history with food-related diseases and conditions. In the year 2011, an outbreak affected about 28 states, resulting in massive hysteria. It is safe to say that America will deal with epidemics of food poisoning in the future as well.


Food Poisoning: Overview & Facts

Food poisoning is a disorder that is caused by eating contaminated. Food contamination refers to sources of nourishment that have been corrupted with disease-causing organisms, such as parasites, bacteria and viruses, allergens, toxins and mold, and contaminants. Attention needs to be paid to the fact that these living organisms can exist in edible materials at any stages. It is very common to get sick from eating contaminated food products. This disorder affects people from all around the world. More often than not, companies are responsible for foodborne illness outbreaks.

A lesser known fact is that the risk of getting food poisoning increases in the summer. The reason for this is that germs multiply a lot faster due to the high temperature. What is more, preparing food is a lot more difficult. Not all people are susceptible to becoming ill. Some individuals can tolerate the foreign body. The ones that are at a great risk for food poisoning are infants and elderly people. If they do become ill, then the effects are a lot more serious.

The many kinds of food poisoning, as follows:

  • Salmonella: An infection can occur when the food is harmed with salmonella bacteria. Salmonella is one of the most dangerous types of food poisoning, leading to hospitalization. The germ affects poultry as well as their handlers. Salmonella is commonly involved in gastroenteritis.
  • Campylobacter enteritis: Campylobacter infections are the most prevailing ones in humans. Campylobacter enteritis infects edible material like fresh farm-produced crop and foods, unpasteurized milk, and raw poultry.
  • E. coli: The bacteria is normally found in the human body, more precisely, in the intestines. It is a good bacterium. Yet, there are many strains of E. coli, some of them very dangerous. Sources of E. coli include cows, sheep, chickens, deer, and pigs. E. coli is the only germ that kills no matter what treatment is administered.

These living organisms can contaminate the food during processing or preparation. This is the reason why it is necessary to take precautions. However, attention needs to be paid to the fact that food contamination can take place in many other ways. For instance, germs can infect the animals on the farm, which at a later point end up in someone’s plate.


Symptoms & Diagnosis of Food Poisoning

Food poisoning symptoms can take days and even weeks to occur. These are the most common signs of illness:

  • Throwing up
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Acute diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever

Those who have been experiencing rectal bleeding or manifest symptoms of severe dehydration need to call a doctor immediately. Other causes for concern are represented by difficulty in speaking and bloody urine.

The symptoms that characterize the types of foodborne illnesses discussed earlier are:

  • Salmonella: fever, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps
  • Campylobacter enteritis: chills, throwing up, nausea, rectal bleeding, burning up, watery or bloody diarrhea
  • coli: malaise, loss of appetite, vomiting, abdominal cramps

It is difficult to know is these signs and symptoms are of food poisoning or of gastrointestinal symptoms. The reason for this is that the clinical symptoms are very much alike. When individuals get sick, they believe that they have stomach flu. Stomach flu and food poisoning are used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Stomach flu, or gastroenteritis, is caused by a virus and it leads to severe digestive issues. It does not matter what the person eats.

Diagnosis of food poisoning does not present a problem for a GP. The symptoms will confirm the patient’s health condition. As a rule, it is not necessary to get confirmation from another medical practitioner. This means that the signs of illness are enough to make a diagnosis. However, the GP may want to collect information, that is, if the patient has failed to provide any. In this case, they will perform a clinical exam and take the patient’s history.

Depending on the patient’s condition, the medical practitioner may conduct further diagnostic tests. Stool samples are examined in order to rule out severe infections, like Salmonella or E. coli. To determine whether or not it is a foodborne illness, the GP may order blood tests. Blood tests show if the person is severely ill. Last but not least, imaging tests can be done, but only if there is reason to believe that the infection has spread to other parts of the body.


Food Poisoning: Treatment & Care

Generally speaking, food poisoning resolves itself and there need for medical intervention. The vast majority of cases last for 1 or 2 days, time in which the symptoms disappear. The foodborne illness can be treated at home. What people have to do is stay hydrated because the body loses more water than usually and avoid foods and drinks that irritate the GI. Medications can provide individuals relief from symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. While adults may be able to tolerate such signs of illness, children and older adults cannot. They frequently require hospitalization. At the hospital, they receive the fluids and electrolytes that they desperately need.

With regards to severe food poisoning, things are a little bit more complicated. Severe cases of food poising are those caused by bacteria. Consequently, antibiotics are administered in order to kill the dangerous germs. Probiotics are also administered to foster the growth of beneficial bacteria Antidiarrheal drugs and antiemetic drugs are given to make the patient more comfortable. Sufferers receive IV fluids and they cannot leave the hospital until they make a full recovery. It is important to mention that a certain interval must elapse when using other therapies. There are situations when the disorder refuses to go away. Should the symptoms persist after 3 or 4 days, then special treatments are initiated.


Preventing the Spread Of Food Poisoning

People who suffer from food poisoning can take steps to prevent the spread of the infection. It is necessary to keep human contact to a minimum, especially with those who are at risk, that is, infants and elderly people. In addition, it is recommended not to cook for others. If the edible material is not cleaned or cooked properly, the person can spread microbes. On the other hand, individuals with non-contagious food poisoning do not need to do anything. It is important for people to determine whether they have a contagious or non-contagious food poisoning.


Death from Food Poisoning

A person can die from food poisoning. As a matter of fact, foodborne illnesses are the leading causes of death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3,000 Americans die from food poisoning every year. Many are of the opinion that deaths from food poisoning are rated too low. What they say is that the real number is considerably higher and that the matter deserves more attention. Taking into account that the number of cases has increased in the past several years, it is impossible to argue with them.

It is true that the likelihood of dying from such a disorder is low, yet attention needs to be paid to the fact that food poisoning can cause disability. To be more precise, eating contaminated food can result in serious complications. Reactive arthritis is one example. Other examples include urinary tract problems. The point is that an individual who contracts some form of food poisoning is scarred for life. Food safety should be a major concern for individuals as well as for authorities.


People at Risk for Food Poisoning

As mentioned earlier, certain categories of people are at risk of developing food poisoning. As surprising as ti may seem, children and older people are not the only ones at risk. People who are part of the high-risk groups are those with a weakened immune system. What happens is that their bodies are not able to fight off the illness and the disease. It is not uncommon to see that individuals who are on medical treatment or pregnant women get food poisoning. People with weakened immune systems are those who have:

  • Cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Undergone surgery

Anyone who falls into the abovementioned categories should seek medical advice on how to reduce the risk of becoming ill.


How to Prevent Food Poisoning

Food poisoning may very well be contagious, but in the vast majority of instances, it is induced by contaminated food. Bacteria can grow and multiply in almost any environment, which is why it is necessary to store food in a proper manner and prepare it carefully. Food is safe for consumption only after it has been cooked at temperatures high enough to destroy toxic bacteria. Foods that require thorough preparation are burgers, sausages, pork, kebabs, etc.

Other measures that can be taken to minimize the risk of developing a foodborne infection are:

  • Washing hands
  • Washing vegetables and fruit
  • Separate to prevent cross-contamination


Diet for Food Poisoning

Not only is it important for people to seek medical attention, but also to diet for food poisoning. Patients are able to eat normally after a few days. The matter of the fact is that they cannot eat just about anything and they are required to make dietary changes. Edible materials that can help them regain their full strength are:

  • Saltine crackers
  • Toasted bread
  • Boiled veggies
  • Rice
  • Bananas
  • Mashed potatoes

The following foods should be avoided at all costs:

  • Raw shellfish
  • Unpasteurized pates
  • Luncheon meat
  • Dairy products
  • Spicy, fatty foods

Equally important is that people avoid what made them sick in the first place. What is more, if people do not track what they are eating, then they are at risk of developing food poisoning once again.


Common Myths about Food Poisoning

There are many misconceptions related to food poisoning. However, we’re only going to discuss the most popular ones.

Myth #1: You get food poisoning from the last meal you eat

When they contract any kind of foodborne illness, people start recollecting what they have eaten. Basically, they are trying to determine what has made them sick. The thing is that most cases take place a few days after having ingested contaminated food. The symptoms take a long time to appear. This means that there is no way of telling for sure what caused the medical condition.

Myth #2: The more bleach you use, the better

From the dawn of time, individuals have been using bleach for sanitation. They think that the more bleach they use, the more germs are killed. It is not to say that using bleach is ineffective. It is just that using too much can damage the surface and affect everyone around. It is recommended to use a teaspoon of bleach to ¼ of water. This is enough to kill bacteria. It is also important to clean all the surfaces that may have been exposed.

Myth #3: Food purchased from the supermarket is safe

It is indeed tempting to think that sources of nourishment bought from the supermarket are safe. What people do not realize is that the food is more often than not imported from other countries and there are strong chances that they contain germs and toxins. To decrease the risk of getting an infection, people should prepare their food safely. It does not matter if, say, the vegetables and fruits are peeled. They are still dangerous.

Last updated on March 2nd, 2018

Chris Riley

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