Food poisoning occurs, when contaminated food is ingested. Food may become contaminated during production, processing, or preparation. It may even be contaminated during service, if it is touched by anything that contains parasites, viruses, or bacteria. Food may also be contaminated by pesticides or poisons.
Much food poisoning goes undiagnosed simply because the symptoms are very mild, and may be attributed to a touch of indigestion or flu. Mild symptoms usually pass within a day or two.
The symptoms of food poisoning are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps or pain. These symptoms may first appear within an hour or so of eating contaminated food or may not appear for many hours. There are no hard and fast rules about when the first symptoms of food poisoning will appear. It depends largely on the nature of the contaminants.
Food poisoning is especially dangerous to the elderly, the very young, the chronically ill, and those with compromised immune systems.
If food poisoning is suspected, anyone should receive medical attention if;
- they are in the above group,
- they are becoming progressively weaker,
- they are with others who ingested similar foods and have become ill,
- they are in an underdeveloped country,
- they have eaten street food or food that causes suspicious,
- they have eaten uncooked, or undercooked fish, meat, or eggs,
- they have any symptoms that cause concern.
Immediate medical attention is vital for anyone who begins to slur their speech, has difficulty speaking or swallowing, or has double vision.
Those with severe food poisoning may need to be hospitalized, in order to treat dehydration and other potential complications. A degree of dehydration is always a possibility when an individual is unable, for any reason, to replace fluids lost due to vomiting and diarrhea. Severe dehydration can be fatal.
Serious food poisoning can also cause kidney damage, damage to the fetus, and miscarriage.
If the symptoms of food poisoning are mild, they can easily be treated at home. Consider the following steps.
1. Concentrate on replacing fluids. Your doctor or pharmacist can advise you on restoring the balance of minerals and salts, which may have been lost. Your doctor may or may not prescribe antibiotics.
2. When food can be tolerated, start with bland food such as dry crackers, or a bit of applesauce. Once bland solids are tolerated, it is time to slowly introduce other foods.
3. Start with small meals, and gradually return to a regular diet.
4. Do not take any over-the-counter medications to stop vomiting or diarrhea, unless advised to do so by your physician. You could be preventing your body from expelling dangerous substance.
How To Prevent Food Poisoning
1. Do not eat raw, or undercooked meat, fish,or eggs.
2. Keep all perishable foods refrigerated.
3. Do not consume foods that are past their ‘best before’ date.
4. Wash, in hot soapy water, all items and surfaces that have come into contact with raw meat, fish, or eggs.
5. Wash fruits and vegetables before use.
6. Wash your hands before handling food, especially after handling raw meat and fish.
7. Keep your kitchen and all that is in it spotlessly clean.
8. Cook foods at recommended temperatures.
9. Use common sense when eating away from home.
If you have any concerns about your health, consult your family physician. Prompt treatment always ensures a better outcome.