Overview- Food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, is illness caused by eating contaminated food. Infectious organisms — including bacteria, viruses and parasites — or their toxins are the most common causes of food poisoning. Infectious organisms or their toxins can contaminate food at any point of processing or production. Contamination can also occur at home if food is incorrectly handled or cooked.
Food poisoning symptoms vary with the source of contamination. Most types of food poisoning cause one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
3. Watery or bloody diarrhea
4. Abdominal pain and cramp
Signs and symptoms may start within hours after eating the contaminated food, or they may begin days or even weeks later. Sickness caused by food poisoning generally lasts from a few hours to several days.
When to see a doctor?
If you experience any of the following signs or symptoms, seek medical attention.
- Frequent episodes of vomiting and inability to keep liquids down
- Bloody vomit or stools
- Diarrhea for more than three days
- Extreme pain or severe abdominal cramping
- An oral temperature higher than 100.4 F (38 C) Signs or symptoms of dehydration — excessive thirst, dry mouth, little or no urination, severe weakness, dizziness, or lightheadedness
- Neurological symptoms such as blurry vision, muscle weakness and tingling in the arms
Contamination of food can happen at any point of production: growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping or preparing. Cross-contamination — the transfer of harmful organisms from one surface to another — is often the cause. This is especially troublesome for raw, ready-to-eat foods, such as salads or other produce. Because these foods aren’t cooked, harmful organisms aren’t destroyed before eating and can cause food poisoning.
|Contaminant||Onset of symptoms||Foods affected and means of transmission|
|Clostridium botulinum||12 to 72 hours||Home-canned foods with low acidity, improperly canned commercial foods, smoked or salted fish, potatoes baked in aluminum foil, and other foods kept at warm temperatures for too long.|
|Clostridium perfringens||8 to 16 hours||Meats, stews and gravies. Commonly spread when serving dishes don’t keep food hot enough or food is chilled too slowly.|
|Escherichia coli (E. coli)||1 to 8 days||Beef contaminated with feces during slaughter. Spread mainly by undercooked ground beef. Other sources include unpasteurized milk and apple cider, alfalfa sprouts, and contaminated water.|
|Hepatitis A||28 days||Raw, ready-to-eat produce and shellfish from contaminated water. Can be spread by an infected food handler.|
|Rotavirus||1 to 3 days||Raw, ready-to-eat produce. Can be spread by an infected food handler.|
|Salmonella||1 to 3 days||Raw or contaminated meat, poultry, milk, or egg yolks. Survives inadequate cooking. Can be spread by knives, cutting surfaces or an infected food handler.|
Whether you become ill after eating contaminated food depends on the organism, the amount of exposure, your age and your health. High-risk groups include:
Older adults- As you get older, your immune system may not respond as quickly and as effectively to infectious organisms as when you were younger.
Pregnant women- During pregnancy, changes in metabolism and circulation may increase the risk of food poisoning. Your reaction may be more severe during pregnancy. Rarely, your baby may get sick, too.
Infants and young children – Their immune systems haven’t fully developed.
People with chronic disease – Having a chronic condition — such as diabetes, liver disease or AIDS — or receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer reduces your immune response.
Some types of food poisoning have potentially serious complications for certain people. These include:
Listeria infection – Complications of a listeria food poisoning may be most severe for an unborn baby. Early in pregnancy, a listeria infection may lead to miscarriage. development.
Escherichia coli (E. coli) – Certain E. coli strains can cause a serious complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome. This syndrome damages the lining of the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, sometimes leading to kidney failure.
Prevention :- To prevent food poisoning at home:
- Wash your hands, utensils and food surfaces often.
- Keep raw foods separate from ready-to-eat foods.
- Cook foods to a safe temperature.
- Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods promptly.
- Defrost food safely.
- Throw it out when in doubt.
Food poisoning is especially serious and potentially life-threatening for young children, pregnant women and their fetuses, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. These individuals should take extra precautions by avoiding the following foods:
- Raw or rare meat and poultry
- Raw or undercooked fish or shellfish, including oysters, clams, mussels and scallops.
- Raw or undercooked eggs or foods that may contain them, such as cookie dough and homemade ice cream
- Raw sprouts, such as alfalfa, bean, clover and radish sprouts.
- Unpasteurized juices and ciders.
- Unpasteurized milk and milk products.
- Soft cheeses, such as feta, Brie and Camembert; blue-veined cheese; and unpasteurized cheese.
- Refrigerated pates and meat spreads.
- Uncooked hot dogs, luncheon meats and deli meats.
Food poisoning is often diagnosed based on a detailed history, including how long you’ve been sick, your symptoms and specific foods you’ve eaten. Your doctor will also perform a physical exam, looking for signs of dehydration.
Depending on your symptoms and health history, your doctor may conduct diagnostic tests, such as a blood test, stool culture or examination for parasites, to identify the cause and confirm the diagnosis.
For a stool test, your doctor will send a sample of your stool to a lab, where a technician will try to identify the infectious organism.
Treatment of food poisoning may include:
Replacement of lost fluids – Fluids and electrolytes — minerals such as sodium, potassium and calcium that maintain the balance of fluids in your body — lost to persistent diarrhea need to be replaced. Some children and adults with persistent diarrhea or vomiting may need hospitalization, where they can receive salts and fluids through a vein (intravenously), to prevent or treat dehydration.
Antibiotics – Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if you have a certain kind of bacterial food poisoning and your symptoms are severe. Food poisoning caused by listeria needs to be treated with intravenous antibiotics during hospitalization. The sooner treatment begins, the better. During pregnancy, prompt antibiotic treatment may help keep the infection from affecting the baby.
Dr. Gaurav Shrivastava, Assistant Professor, Department of Physiotherapy, Career Point University, Kota