Food poisoning is a common and in most cases easily curable disease. For most people, it takes around 1 week to cure it with or without medical intervention, in rare cases only it needs serious medical treatment. Food poisoning is caused by eating raw, contaminated food or food which is not handled properly. It is also caused by drinking contaminated water which may carry pathogens in it.
Food Poisoning Symptoms
There are some food poisoning symptoms to look out for when in doubt. Some mild food poisoning symptoms include the following –
- Mild fever
- General sense of fatigue or discomfort
- Abdominal pain or cramps
- Muscle aches
In severe cases, it may also lead to bloody stool or bloody urine. Food poisoning symptoms may start to show up within hours of eating contaminated food or drinking unfiltered water or can take up to a few days to surface, to be precise, it can take from up to 30 minutes of having contaminated food or drink to up to 8 weeks, in which case, it gets difficult to point out the exact source of the foodborne illness.
Usually, home-based remedies, OTC or Over-the-Counter medicines do help in food poisoning treatment but one should always consult a medical practitioner before taking any medication as certain medicines only hide the symptoms of the disease and delay the much-needed medical intervention which might be actually required. For example, taking anti-vomit pills may ease nausea, but vomiting may be the best way in which the body is fighting off pathogens and letting the toxins out of itself.
Although most cases resolve on their own, cases that definitely require urgent medical treatment include the following –
- Severe dehydration – dry mouth, uncontrolled vomiting, diarrhea, frequent urge to urinate, or no urination at all.
- Diarrhea lasting for more than 3 days
- Repeated bloody stools or urine
- Severe abdominal cramps or pain
- Food poisoning fever that remains constantly high, i.e. more than 102 degrees F
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, blurry vision
- Difficulty in speaking
Causes & Side Effects of Food Poisoning
There are two main causes of food poisoning, eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water both of which lead to the risk of ingesting pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Some of these pathogens are less dangerous than others.
Bacteria are the common-most cause of foodborne illness. Some of them are as follows:
- Clostridium botulinum
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Listeria monocytogenes
- Vibrio vulnificus
Though parasites are not that common in causing food poisoning and most food poisoning cases are attributed to bacteria, parasite-caused food poisoning is very dangerous. Some of the parasites that are responsible for the signs of food poisoning are listed below:
- Giardia lamblia
- Toxoplasma gondii
- Ascaris lumbricoides
Eating raw meat, uncooked food such as salads, or undercooked food which is clumsily handled can turn out to be the carrier for such pathogens. Home-cooked food, if not washed and cleansed properly before cooking, can lead to the disease as well. If an ill person is cooking, it can be another reason for the foodborne illness to sprout.
Unfiltered water can also be the carrier of germs causing food poisoning.
Food Poisoning Treatment and Precautions
Most food poisoning cases get cured by themselves, a home-based treatment can relieve one of the diseases in a matter of a few days. In some cases though, medical intervention is required. People who are at high risk like pregnant women, old, young, and those with a compromised immune system should seek medical help even with mild symptoms.
In rare cases of being affected by lethal pathogens such as Clostridium botulinum, urgent medical intervention is required.
In severe cases of diarrhea, intravenous fluids have to be given in a hospital.
Common Food Poisoning Treatment at Home
- Take rest
- Stay hydrated, and drink lots of water as vomiting and diarrhea lead to constant water loss. If diarrhea or vomiting persists and you are not able to hold on to the fluids, go to the doctor immediately.
- OTC medicines work, yet take the doctor’s advice.
- Keep drinking ORS water or drinks that have added salts in them to keep the salt levels balanced in your body as food poisoning more often than not has the side effect of dehydration. One can also have decaffeinated teas like peppermint, chamomile, and hibiscus, etc.
In most cases, the diagnosis of food infection is done by blood tests, stool tests, and urine tests to see what types of food poisoning have infected and how much dehydration has taken place.
Foods to Have When Down With Food Poisoning
Consume food that is easily digestible and light. Be easy on your stomach, it’s imperative to give it rest while maintaining a minimum required diet. Foods that are suitable to be eaten during food poisoning are listed below:
- White bread
- Boiled vegetables
While you take care of foods that have to be eaten while you are down with the disease, it is doubly necessary to understand which food to avoid. Avoid foods that are heavy, and tough to digest:
- Foods high in sugar content
- Milk and dairy products (since they are very difficult to break down)
- Fried foods
- Heavy pulses
- Wheat and fibrous foods
- Seasoned foods
Avoid caffeinated products like tea, coffee, and chocolates. Decaffeinated teas like Dandelion, Chamomile, Hibiscus tea, etc. are good to soothe the stomach. Also, avoid alcohol and nicotine.
Food poisoning is not a serious or rare disease. It is rather common and as the food industry is growing by leaps and bounds every day, we do stand at a higher risk of getting infected by foodborne illnesses. A busy lifestyle, no time for cooking, over-storage of food products, and eating increasingly large amounts of ready-to-eat or processed foods and packaged foods do have an overall impact on our health – physically as well as mentally.
The best way forward is to minimize the consumption of food that seems junk, unhealthy or unhygienic. Stick to home-cooked food which is cleanly handled and properly cooked to the right temperature. Have raw or uncooked food only after taking every care about its hygiene
Since food poisoning is mostly curable at home and only a few cases become serious and even fewer, lethal, it is not something to be extremely anxious about. However, it is imperative to take care of one’s health by taking the right precautions and showing up to the doctor when required.