Food poisoning or foodborne illness is caused due to eating contaminated, spoiled or toxic food where bacteria, viruses and parasites or other toxins are the most common causes of food poisoning. Contamination can happen at home if food is not handled properly or cooked. The symptoms of food poisoning develop within a few hours of consuming contaminated food which include nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea. In most case, food poisoning is mild and settles without treatment, however, some people need proper medical attention. Also Read: Contaminated Food Can Lead To Traveler’s Diarrhea
Symptoms of food poisoning vary depending on the nature of the infection. Generally, the time is taken for the symptoms to develop also depends on the source of infection and range from 1 hour to as long as 28 days. Some of the common symptoms of food poisoning includeSome of the symptoms of serious life-threatening food poisoning include:
- Continuous diarrhoea
- Fever higher than 101.5
- Severe Dehydration –symptoms include dry mouth, decreased urine output and fluid imbalance
- Bloody urine
- Difficulty speaking
Food can be contaminated at any point of production such as growing, harvesting, processing, storing or preparing. Cross-contamination of harmful pathogens from one surface to another is one of the common cause. Some of the common harmful pathogens that contaminated food includes:
Bacteria is one of the most prevalent causes of food poisonings such as E.coli, Listeria and Salmonella. The most dangerous and common food poisoning culprits is caused by Salmonella. Campylobacter and C.botulinum are other lethal bacteria can also be a source of food poisoning.
Food poisoning caused due to parasites are not very common, but still, a parasite spread via food and can be dangerous. Toxoplasmosis is a common parasite agent which survives in the gastrointestinal tract is left undetected for several years. People with a compromised immune system and pregnant women are at higher risk of parasites infection.
Viruses are also one of the causative factors for food poisoning. The norovirus, also called the Norwalk virus, had nearly infected 19 million people every year. Sapovirus, rotavirus and astrovirus also causes food poisoning but are less common. Hepatitis A virus is a serious health condition that can be transmitted by food.
Dehydration is a serious complication of food poisoning which leads to loss of water and electrolytes. Particularly infants, older adults and people with the compromised immune system may become dehydrated when the fluids lost is more than it is replaced. In such cases, patients need to hospitalised and given intravenous fluids to correct the imbalance.
Food poisoning is generally diagnosed by the doctor by collecting a complete history, symptoms and specific foods consumed. Certain blood work, urine and stool culture test are performed to determine the source of infection. The doctor will also observe for any sign of dehydration.
In most cases food poisoning settles on its own within three to five days, however, it is very vital to stay well hydrated and consume plenty of fluids high in electrolytes. Fruit juices and tender coconut water help to restore carbohydrates, minerals and feel energised. In severe cases, patients may need proper hydration with intravenous fluids at a hospital. Some of the treatment options of food poisoning include
Fluids and electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and calcium that has been depleted due to continuous diarrhoea had to be restored to maintain the proper balance of the fluids in the system. It is also vital to correct dehydration. Also Read: 5 Best Natural Remedies To Treat Stomach Flu, This Monsoon Season
The doctors may prescribe antibiotics to treat food poisoning caused due to bacteria. Listeria foodborne illness is treated with intravenous antibiotics during hospitalization. In pregnant women, prompt treatment is needed to avoid the infection from affecting the foetus.