What is Food Poisoning? Facts and Treatment of Foodborne Illnesses
One of the greatest pleasures in life is eating the perfect meal, and here in the Houston area, there is a lot of great places to choose from. There is however one concern that comes up from time to time when talking to friends or co-workers at Angels Medical about our favorite trending eateries. Someone ends up telling the story of the time they got food poisoning from eating at one place or another. And of course that leads to all of us questioning the safety of our favorite places to eat (and that’s just no fun).
Food poisoning isn’t something people want to think about until they hear the horror stories of what can happen if we eat the wrong thing. But it’s important to know the basics about food poisoning and what to do if you come up on the wrong side of the sandwich. This article will provide some helpful tips and facts on food poisoning and what to do if you get it.
What is Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning, also known as foodborne illnesses, is the result of eating contaminated food. This can be caused by the cooking process, food storage, or even how the food was raised, processed and shipped for purchase. When food is infected by bacteria, parasites or viruses and their toxins are released into our bodies the result is a foodborne illness.
It is not always the fault of our favorite restaurants if we get food poisoning as these same toxins can be in our own food at home and some symptoms can take hours to days to show themselves. One of the more well-known contaminants is Salmonella. It comes from raw or contaminated meats, milk and eggs and can be transferred to knives, cutting surfaces, or already infected people and the onset of symptoms doesn’t show until 1 to 3 days after consumption. Or there is Giardia Lamblia that can come from raw produce like fruits and vegetables but can take up to two weeks for symptoms to start. It’s not always going to be the midnight run to the [enter your favorite fast food place here] that can give us a food poisoning nausea attack but the baked potato from granny’s birthday barbecue that afternoon.
All of this can sound really scary, but symptoms are almost never life-threatening and only last for a few hours. Symptoms of food poisoning are:
- Stomach discomfort or cramps and
Should I go see a doctor for food poisoning?
Going to see a doctor for food poisoning is not always necessary. Our bodies are designed to get rid of toxins that cause food poisoning. That’s why the previously mentioned symptoms occur.
However, if symptoms that are abnormal for food poisoning occur make sure you do come in to get the advice of a medical professional. A couple signs that things aren’t normal are these:
- Frequent vomiting and
- inability to keep hydrating liquids from being vomited
- Blood in the vomit or stools
- Diarrhea for more than three days
- Extreme pain or severe stomach cramping
- A high temperature of 100 degrees F or more
- Dehydration- excessive thirst, dry mouth, not urinating, weakness and dizziness
- Blurry vision
- Muscle weakness and tingling sensations in arms
There are also groups of people that are at high-risk for food poisoning. Pregnant women, infants, toddlers, those with weakened immune systems, chronically ill, and older adults have a greater risk for food poisoning.
Food Poisoning Treatments
Before going to the doctor here are some ways you can help ease the discomfort of the symptoms:
- Stop eating and drinking for a few hours
- If feeling better sip on small amounts of liquid. Replenishing fluids is important but do it slowly:
- suck on ice chips
- clear sodas
- non-caffeinated sports drinks
- After re-hydrating, try to eat bland, low-fat, easily digestible food;
- soda crackers
* pause eating if nausea returns.
- Always try to avoid
- fatty, well-seasoned food
Preparing for the Doctor
Remember, food poisoning is not life-threatening and though uncomfortable and gross, the symptoms do not last long and are how the body will fight and reject what is causing the illness. But, if the more extreme, abnormal symptoms present themselves prepare to go to the doctor with the information they will need:
- List of symptoms. Make sure to track all the symptoms and how long they have been present.
- Remember what was eaten. Try not to hypothesize what caused the illness, but list everything that you remember eating around the time the first symptoms started.
- Who also is sick. If there were other people eating the same food, ask them or have a way of contacting them to investigate if they have any symptoms of food poisoning and their severity.
Foodborne illnesses or food poisoning can sound scary and most of us have either vivid memories of past experiences or stories of fellow Houstonian’s food nightmares to feed our fears. We start to question our favorite eats or cooking habits even though the symptoms are short-lived and can be treated with rest, hydration and letting the illness run its course.
However, if you’re ever worried at all by the effects of food poisoning our team at Angels Medical is more than happy to give you an examination and make sure everything is progressing the way it should. Just come on down to your nearest Angels Medical Houston or Pasadena and we’ll see you no appointment or insurance necessary!
If you’re interested in learning more about food safety check out our article: “Food Safety: How to Feed Your Family Safely for the Holidays“