Food is a source of joy and sustenance, but when mishandled, it can lead to a distressing condition: food poisoning.
Food poisoning is a very common illness. According to Food Safety report, in the United States, an estimated 48 million people get sick from food poisoning each year, and 128,000 people are hospitalized.
In this guide, we’ll explore the essentials of food poisoning – its symptoms, causes, treatment, and prevention. By arming yourself with this knowledge, you can make informed choices to protect your health and well-being.
What is Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning is a type of foodborne illness that occurs when you eat food that is contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, or parasites. In addition, it is acquired from something people ate or drank.
What are the Symptoms of Food Poisoning?
Symptoms of Food Poisoning may include;
- Abdominal cramps.
- Muscle aches
- In some cases, food poisoning can be deadly.
Kindly note that the symptoms of food poisoning can vary depending on the type of contaminant.
How common is food poisoning?
Food poisoning is a very common illness. In the United States, an estimated 48 million people get sick from food poisoning each year, and 128,000 people are hospitalized.
Common Causes of Food Poisoning
Timing of Symptoms
|30 minutes to 15 hours.||
||Produces toxins when food isn’t properly stored.|
|2 to 5 days.||
||Most commonly reported bacterial cause.|
Clostridium botulinum (bacterium)
|18 to 36 hours. Infants: 3 to 30 days.||
||Produces potent neurotoxin causing paralysis.|
Clostridium perfringens (bacterium)
|6 to 24 hours.||
||Commonly linked to large gatherings.|
Escherichia coli (E. coli) (bacterium)
|Usually, 3 to 4 days. Possibly, 1 to 10 days.||
||Some strains produce severe complications.|
Giardia lamblia (parasite)
|1 to 2 weeks.||
||Commonly associated with contaminated water.|
Hepatitis A (virus)
|15 to 50 days.||
||Affects the liver and spreads through feces.|
|9 to 48 hours for digestive disease. 1 to 4 weeks for body-wide disease.||
||Can cause severe complications, especially in vulnerable populations.|
|12 to 48 hours.||
||Highly contagious and often causes outbreaks.|
|18 to 36 hours.||
||Common in children and causes gastroenteritis.|
|6 hours to 6 days.||
||One of the most common bacterial causes.|
|Usually 30 to 60 minutes, up to 24 hours.||
||Caused by toxins produced by algae in shellfish.|
|Usually, 1 to 2 days. Up to 7 days.||
||Easily spreads in places with poor hygiene.|
Staphylococcus aureus (bacterium)
|30 minutes to 8 hours.||
||Often caused by improper food handling.|
|2 to 48 hours.||
||Thrives in warm, brackish water environments.|
When to see a doctor
In most cases, food poisoning can be treated at home with rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications. However, you should see a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Severe vomiting or diarrhea that lasts more than 24 hours
- Bloody diarrhea
- Fever higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit
- Signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, dizziness, or lightheadedness
- Weakness or muscle aches
- Infants, young children, and older adults are more likely to develop complications from food poisoning, so they should see a doctor if they have any symptoms of food poisoning.
When to See a
Prevention of food poisoning
Food poisoning is a common illness that can be caused by eating food that is contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemicals. In most cases, food poisoning can be treated at home with rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications. However, it is important to take steps to prevent food poisoning in the first place.
Here are some tips for preventing food poisoning:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before, during, and after handling food. This is the single most important step you can take to prevent food poisoning.
- Cook food to the proper internal temperature. This will kill harmful bacteria.
- Avoid raw or undercooked foods, especially meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy products. These foods can contain harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them. This will remove any dirt or bacteria that may be present.
- Keep food at safe temperatures. Do not let food sit out at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Throw away food that has been left out for more than two hours. This includes leftovers, cooked food, and even opened cans or bottles of food.
- Do not eat raw or undercooked meat, poultry, or seafood. These foods can contain harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
- Cook eggs until the yolk is firm. Raw or undercooked eggs can contain salmonella, a harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
- Do not drink raw milk or unpasteurized juices. Raw milk and unpasteurized juices can contain harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, even if you plan to peel them. The peel may not be completely free of bacteria, and bacteria can also be present in the flesh of the fruit or vegetable.
- Refrigerate leftovers promptly. Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking.
- Do not eat food that has been left out for more than two hours. This includes food that has been sitting out at room temperature, in a car, or in a picnic cooler.
How to cure food poisoning fast
- Stay Hydrated: Always drink clear fluids, electrolyte-rich drinks, and oral rehydration solutions during this time to prevent dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea.
- Rest: Give your body time to recover by resting and avoiding strenuous activities.
- Medications: Consider using over-the-counter medications like anti-diarrheals (e.g., loperamide) to relieve diarrhea symptoms. Avoid using anti-diarrheals if you suspect bacterial infection or if symptoms are severe.
- Avoid Certain Foods: Avoid fatty, spicy, and dairy-rich foods until you fully recover to prevent exacerbating symptoms.
- Medical Attention: If symptoms are severe, persistent, or worsening, seek medical attention. Also, antibiotics may be prescribed for certain bacterial infections.
What should I eat after food poisoning?
Foods like bananas, rice, oatmeal, chicken broth, crackers, and rehydrating solutions like Gatorade and Pedialyte are the best foods to eat after a bout of food poisoning. These are bland foods and are easy to digest. Also, these foods help your body to restore hydration.
Here are some general guidelines on what to eat after food poisoning:
|Clear Fluids||Start with clear fluids such as water, diluted fruit juices, clear broths, and oral rehydration solutions to rehydrate your body.|
|BRAT Diet||Incorporate bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, which are bland and easy on the stomach.|
|Plain Rice or Pasta||Enjoy plain cooked rice or pasta for easily digestible carbohydrates.|
|Boiled Potatoes||Opt for plain boiled or mashed potatoes, which can be gentle on the stomach.|
|Cooked Vegetables||Include cooked, non-greasy vegetables like carrots, zucchini, and spinach in small portions.|
|Lean Protein||Consider boiled or baked chicken, turkey, or fish for easily digestible protein.|
|Ginger and Peppermint||Soothe your stomach and ease nausea with ginger tea or peppermint tea.|
|Probiotics||Restore healthy gut bacteria with yogurt containing live active cultures or other probiotic-rich foods.|
|Avoid Fatty, Spicy, and Greasy Foods||Steer clear of foods that are fatty, spicy, and greasy, as they might be harder to digest.|
|Eat Small Portions||Opt for small, frequent meals instead of large ones to reduce stress on your digestive system.|
What foods should you avoid after food poisoning?
After experiencing food poisoning, avoid foods, drinks, and substances that are tough on the stomach, such as:
- Fatty Foods: Do well to stay away from fatty foods while recovering from food poisoning. Foods high in fat are hard to digest and will worsen diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms.
- Spicy Foods: They can irritate your stomach and digestive tract, which leads to discomfort and potentially worsen symptoms. Avoid them when experiencing discomfort from food poisoning.
- Greasy Foods: These foods are heavy on the stomach and can worsen nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Dairy Products: especially full-fat ones, can be difficult to digest for some people after food poisoning. Lactose intolerance also becomes more pronounced during recovery.
- Raw Vegetables: They are hard to digest and might be abrasive to the stomach lining. Opt for cooked vegetables instead.
- Raw Fruits with Skin: Fruits with tough skins or seeds can be harder to digest. So, choose peeled and/or cooked fruits instead.
- Highly Acidic Foods: Foods high in acidity, such as citrus fruits and tomato-based products can irritate the stomach. So, ensure to avoid them.
- Caffeine and Alcohol: Both caffeine and alcohol will contribute to dehydration and may worsen gastrointestinal symptoms.
- Sugary Foods and Beverages: Sugary foods and drinks can disrupt digestion and potentially feed harmful bacteria in the gut.
- Processed or Spicy Meats: Avoid heavily processed meats or those that are spicy. While they may be tempting especially if you are a lover, restrain yourself from them as they are harder to digest.
- Carbonated Beverages: Carbonated beverages contribute to gas and discomfort. Moreover, you don’t want to feel bloated along with stomach discomfort from food poisoning
- Large Meals: Eating large meals will put additional strain on your digestive system. Opt for smaller, more frequent meals instead.
If you experience food poisoning, prompt medical attention is key to a speedy recovery. However, hydrating effectively and opting for easily digestible foods can accelerate the healing process. Remember to avoid fatty, spicy, and greasy foods, as well as high-acid and sugary options that may worsen symptoms.
How do you know if its food poisoning or stomach virus?
- Symptoms of the stomach bug and food poisoning can be similar. But food poisoning typically resolves faster and includes more severe symptoms.
Can food poisoning recover by itself?
- It’s not usually always serious and most people get better within a few days without treatment.
How long does food poisoning last?
- Most of the time, food poisoning passes within 12 to 48 hours. That’s how long it takes for a healthy body to purge the infection.
What are the 1st signs of food poisoning?
- The first signs of food poisoning typically include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and sometimes fever.
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