Hardly anyone ever anticipates a bout of food poisoning, since the meal itself may look, smell and taste perfectly fine at the time. It's only a few hours or days after ingesting a contaminated food that the worst of the symptoms may appear - vomiting, severe headache, diarrhea, fatigue, gastric distress and the like. In rare cases, serious food poisoning agents such as salmonella, E. coli or botulism can cause severe medical problems for the elderly, young children, or those with compromised immune systems. It is vitally important to treat symptoms of food poisoning as soon as they appear.
One home remedy for suspected food poisoning is complete bedrest. Many cases of food poisoning are caused by parasites or bacteria, which enter the body by the thousands or millions immediately after one ingests contaminated food. As a defense mechanism, your body should begin to send out antibodies to combat the invasion. All of this takes time, however, so victims of food poisoning need to minimize other activities in order to allow the body to heal itself. If you suspect food poisoning, consult a physician for prescription antibiotics and remain in bed for several days.
For many food poisoning sufferers, the symptoms can be harder to handle than the disease itself. Bouts of vomiting, for example, should be followed by rounds of fluid replenishment. The body's natural electrolytes need to be replaced, so victims may want to consume sports drinks or fortified bottled waters. Popsicles and frozen juice bars may also help food poisoning patients to remain hydrated between meals. The effects of vomiting can also be soothed with over-the-counter liquid medications designed to coat the throat and esophagus. Antacid tablets may provide some relief, but they can also slow down the stomach's natural recovery process.
Feelings of nausea can be treated by limiting the victim's diet to clear liquids and soups until the food poisoning event has passed. Some find that saltine crackers or slices of fresh bread can also calm waves of nausea. A room's temperature may also need to be adjusted for maximum comfort, since excessive heat or cold may trigger nausea. Stress can often make nausea worse, so victims may benefit from soothing music and pleasant conversations with visitors.
One of the hallmarks of many food poisoning incidents is chronic diarrhea and bloating. The ingested chemicals, parasites or bacteria often wreak havoc on a victim's entire digestive tract. Normal digestion becomes virtually impossible as the body's fluid levels and bloodstream change to attack the invading organisms. As the bacteria or parasites die off, they often leave acidic or gaseous wastes in their wake. In cases of moderate to severe food poisoning, victims may begin to wonder if they will ever recover their normal digestive function.
Home treatments for diarrhea and bloating should include over-the-counter medications specifically formulated for severe symptoms, meaning 'maximum strength' dosages. The organisms responsible for most food poisoning incidents tend to draw moisture from surrounding tissues into the intestines. This excess fluid prevents the normal formation of solid body wastes. Medications for diarrhea contain ingredients designed to restore the proper balance of fluids in the digestive tract. Until this balance is restored over time, victims should stay hydrated as much as possible.
Possibly the most effective home remedy for food poisoning is prevention. Always keep foods protected from insects and exposure to chemicals. Never use the same cutting board for raw and cooked foods. Keep foods wrapped and refrigerated when not being served immediately. Make sure meats are cooked thoroughly before serving.
Only hire licensed caterers to provide food on a large scale. Always discard spoiled foods, or foods which smell, taste or look noticeably different from other batches. Many incidents of food poisoning are not caused by contaminated foods, but through human mishandling or neglect.
What are the Main Causes of Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning can occur if actors within the food supply chain incorrectly complete any of the following steps:
- Preparation, handling, and storage of food.
- Handling of raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
- Processing of dairy products, eggs, and other foods.
- Transportation of food from source to the retailer.
- How retailers handle food before it reaches the consumer.
There are many causes of food poisoning, including; viruses, bacteria, parasites, and chemicals.
Bacteria are single-celled organisms that thrive in warm, moist environments. Some bacteria types cause food poisoning when growing in foods like meat and poultry, which are then eaten without proper cooking or stored at high temperatures.
Some bacteria cause disease from person to person through contaminated food or water sources.
Parasites are tiny animals that live inside larger animals or humans and feed off their blood or other body fluids.
Some parasites cause infection when entering the human body through the mouth and digestive system and growing inside the intestines or stomach lining.
Other parasites may be carried into the human body by undercooked meat or seafood.
You can find viruses in almost any type of food and drink. They only cause illness in humans if they enter the body through eating or drinking contaminated food or water or by coming into contact with infected people or animals such as farm animals. Examples include Norovirus, Hepatitis A, and Rotavirus, which causes diarrhea.
How do Chemicals Cause Food Poisoning?
Some of the most common toxic chemicals that cause food poisoning are:
Chemicals used in food packaging can leach out of the packaging and onto the food.
Heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, can get into your food from the groundwater used to irrigate crops or from contaminated fish. Mercury is especially dangerous because it builds up in your body over time, causing health problems even if eaten in small amounts.
Pesticides that farmers protect their crops with can contaminate foods.
Best Ways to Avoid Food Poisoning
The best way to avoid food poisoning is to follow these simple rules:
Always wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food and after handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs. Use soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Dry hands thoroughly with a clean paper towel or air dryer.
Clean kitchen surfaces, utensils, and worktops regularly, especially after preparing raw meat or poultry.
Keep raw foods separate from cooked foods at all times.
Don't prepare food for others when you are ill.
Cook meats thoroughly, especially chicken and ground meats such as hamburger patties, sausage, and meatballs.
Don't cross-contaminate foods. For example, don't chop chicken on the same cutting board where you chop other foods like vegetables.
Don't drink pasteurized milk or eat soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk. They're more likely to contain harmful bacteria than other dairy products.
Keep hot foods hot (60°C), keep cold foods cold (4°C), and refrigerate leftovers within two hours of cooking them. If you don't plan to eat them within two hours after cooking them, freeze them.
Food Poisoning Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does It Take To Recover From Food Poisoning?
Recovery time varies depending on the type of bacteria causing the illness and how many people are affected. Most cases of people with mild food poisoning recover within 24 hours. However, some infections may last longer (up to two weeks), which, in rare cases, can cause serious complications requiring hospitalization.
What Are the Symptoms of Food Poisoning?
Symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and fever. You may also have headaches and muscle aches. You may feel weak or tired for several days after recovering, especially if you have been vomiting for a long time.
How Can I Tell Whether I Have Food Poisoning or a Stomach Virus?
Food poisoning and a stomach virus are two different conditions. Symptoms of food poisoning are more severe and show up within 12 to 24 hours. Stomach viruses usually cause less severe symptoms, which may take up to two days to appear.
Dozens of different organisms can cause food poisoning. One of the best things to avoid food poisoning is to practice safe food handling techniques. Wash fruits and vegetables, cook foods thoroughly, and when in doubt, throw them out.
When you experience food poisoning, these home remedies do not replace medical advice from a professional doctor. They will help ease some of the symptoms to make you more comfortable and give the body a chance to fight off infection.