It is estimated that around 48 million people in the United States contract foodborne illnesses yearly.
Most of the time, people can recover on their own without hospitalization. But in some rare cases, food poisoning can lead to more serious health complications and even death.
What is Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning is an illness that occurs when you consume contaminated food or water.
The contaminants can be bacteria, viruses, parasites, or toxins, and they may enter the food supply at any point from farm to table. This contamination usually does not produce significant changes in the food’s appearance, taste, or smell.
What are the Symptoms of Food Poisoning?
Once you have consumed contaminated food or water, it can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days for symptoms to develop.
Symptoms of food poisoning include:
● loss of appetite
● abdominal cramps
● mild fever
Generally, these symptoms are not severe and usually resolve within a few days.
What Should I Do?
If you believe you may have food poisoning, you should:
● Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
● Avoid dairy, caffeine, alcohol, and sugary drinks.
● Eat small, bland meals when you can.
● Rest as much as possible.
While over-the-counter medications such as Imodium or Pepto-Bismol can help with nausea and diarrhea, keep in mind that vomiting and diarrhea are your body’s ways of getting rid of the contaminants. It may not be helpful in the long run to suppress these symptoms.
What Warning Signs Should I Look For?
In most cases, food poisoning will resolve on its own without any medical intervention. However, some important warning signs may indicate a more serious health complication.
You should seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of the following:
● Bloody diarrhea
● High fever above 102°F
● Signs of dehydration—little or no urination, severely dry mouth, and throat, dizziness
● Frequent vomiting prevents you from keeping liquids down
● Diarrhea that lasts more than three days
Additionally, you should contact a doctor if:
● You are pregnant
● You are 60 years or older
● You have a weakened immune system
● Your baby or child is sick
How Can I Prevent Food Poisoning?
There are some simple steps that you can take to reduce the risk of food poisoning.
● Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating, before preparing food, and after using the restroom.
● Do not prepare food for other people if you are sick.
● Wash fruits, vegetables, and uncooked foods thoroughly before eating them.
● Cook meat, poultry, and seafood to the proper temperature. Use a food thermometer to check that food has reached a safe internal temperature.
● Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs away from other food items.
● Refrigerate food properly.
● Check expiration dates and be aware of food recall notices.
● Clean your kitchen frequently, including countertops, cutting boards, hand towels, dish rags or sponges, sinks, and appliances.
● Clean all areas where food is prepared, stored, or eaten every day.
Although many people associate food poisoning with eating out at restaurants, most cases of foodborne illness are actually contracted from food prepared in the home.
By taking some simple precautions to maintain excellent hygiene in the kitchen, you can help to keep yourself, your family, and your guests safe from food poisoning.