Have you ever eaten something that has caused you to vomit, have a headache and nausea? Most probably, you have had food poisoning.
The symptoms are caused by the contaminated or spoiled food you have ingested.
Food poisoning is naturally food-borne. You get sick from ingesting food that is contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, parasites or virus, or foods with natural or chemical toxins like poisonous mushrooms or reef fish.
Generally, food poisoning may not be a serious health case. The symptoms will go away after a few hours depending on the amount of contaminated food you have taken in. In some cases, though, food poisoning may be dangerous especially for children or senior citizens.
CAUSES OF FOOD POISONING
- Food that is contaminated during production whether in the preparation or cooking. The cook or kitchen help may have had dirty hands that touched the food. Meat used may have been spoiled before actual cooking because it was not properly frozen or stored. Food, especially meat, may not have been thoroughly cooked. Cooked food was left too long at room temperature when it should have been put in the refrigerator.
- Some foods are more prone to contamination if cooking is not done correctly. These foods include raw meat, eggs, shellfish, poultry, soft cheese, sliced meats and pre-packed sandwiches. Follow instructions on how it should be cooked. Proper cooking kills bacteria, but undercooking will not.
- Follow instructions on storage. Containers have to be clean, and food-grade. Plastic may contaminate your foods. If you re-use plastic containers that have remnants of the previous content, then you can be in trouble. If you see plastic containers with discoloration or with left-over smell, don’t use it. For storage, it is good to use glass containers. Also, follow processes that can preserve food like freezing, vacuum-sealing, canning and the like.
SYMPTOMS OF FOOD POISONING
Maybe you would think it was a simple case of overeating. Symptoms may not appear immediately. Some may come a day or two days after ingestion of contaminated food. In general, it may last a day or two or until the poison has exited your body.
If you have these symptoms, then you surely have been food poisoned:
- Nausea or the urge to throw up
- Actual vomiting
- Diarrhea or stool with blood or mucus
- Abdominal pain, some with painful cramps
- Easy fatigue or lack of energy
- No appetite
TREATMENT FOR FOOD POISONING
Mostly, patients with food poisoning do not need to be taken to the hospital. They can recuperate at home. While you are still suffering any of the symptoms, you should follow this regimen:
- Eat light. Avoid meats and anything oily. Stick to broiled foods or blanched vegetables. Even if you have no appetite, try to eat even just soft crackers.
- Fluid up. Drink and drink to prevent dehydration. Water is good, but oral rehydration solutions of ORS are better as they contain the minerals that your body needs to prevent you from getting weak. This is most recommended for the elderly and for children. Check with your pharmacy, and ask for ORS appropriate to the age of the patient. Prepared or diluted ORS have to be finished within 24 hours from preparation. Do not drink at one time. Better to take small sips frequently.
If the stomach cramps are too painful. You may ask your doctor for medication. Otherwise, avoid medication. It would be good for your system to totally expel the food poison.
The important thing is that while you are experiencing the symptoms, you do not get too weak. Remember, when you vomit or pass out stool, your body can be dehydrated. So fluid up and ride out the storm. It, too, shall pass.
WHEN CAN FOOD POISONING BE A DEATH TRAP?
It can become dangerous to the patient if these symptoms are exhibited:
- Severe symptoms, like repeated vomiting;
- The symptoms don’t go away or lessen after two days;
- As a result of dehydration, you are confused, having palpitations, with sunken eyes and with so little urine;
- If you are pregnant, or over 60 years old;
- If the victim is a baby or a young child;
- If you have other diseases that may complicate your food poisoning, like irritated bowel disease, diabetes, a kidney disorder or a weak immune system due to HIV or cancer.
When these occur, go immediately to the hospital or to the doctor for a check-up. Most probably, your doctor would ask you to have a lab examination for your stool. For extreme dehydration or if you are not able to retain any food, the doctor may hook you up to an IV feeding system. It will deliver the much-lacked nutrients directly into your blood system.
HOW TO PREVENT FOOD POISONING?
- When you buy food, buy your perishable items last. These include meat products, poultry and those that are refrigerated.
- Buy top quality food. Make sure the packaging is not torn or leaking. When you buy, make sure to get the best and most fresh items. If you purchase spoiled fish, no amount of cooking will make it right.
- When you are preparing food, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly. Dry them on clean towels. If you are interchangeably handling raw foods and cooked foods, make sure to wash in between to avoid cross-contamination. After using the restroom or after blowing your nose, wash and wash more.
- Wash your work area and your utensils. Use separate tools like cutting board or knife for raw foods and cooked foods. After a big cooking session, you may want to disinfect your sink and work area with hot soapy water. To sanitize your cutting board, clean it with a solution containing 1-quart water and one teaspoon bleach. You may also want to soak your cutting board in a pail with that solution for overnight.
- Wash and sun-dry your dishcloths. We take it for granted that they are clean, but when we work, we wipe our hands on them; thus it becomes breeding ground for bacteria. Discard dishcloths after use. Wash thoroughly and dry them under the sun. If you can’t, well, just dry them at least before you re-use.
- Keep raw food separate. Have specific containers for your raw food. Put them together in one area in the refrigerator.
- Store correctly. Use food-grade containers. Use the freezer. If your freezer is too full, place your food in the space directly under it. It would be the coldest spot in your refrigerator.
- Cook food thoroughly. Boiling them in water before cooking is excellent. Not only do you ensure your meat is cooked, but you also make a stock, which you can use for flavoring or soup.
- Have your freezer or refrigerator incorrect temperature settings. Freezers should be 0 degrees Celsius while refrigerators should be no higher than 5 degrees Celsius. If the temperature goes higher, then it does not stay cold enough to preserve the food. If the temperature is not constant like when you open your ref or freezer too often, it can also spoil the food.
- Try to serve food that is enough for the meal. Then you can keep the untouched food for future consumption. If the serving on the table is too much, left-over’s have to be placed in proper containers and immediately frozen, not later than an hour after it was cooked.
- Eat the foods at the proper time. Be aware of its best-before dates. Left over’s in the refrigerator have to be eaten within two days. If you use other methods of food preservation, like vacuum-sealing by the best foodsaver model, then it will allow you to consume the foods at a later time.
- When in doubt, throw out. Don’t comprise or put at risk the health of your family. Don’t even give it to your pets if you love them enough.
- Thaw frozen foods inside the refrigerator and not in room temperature. If needed, thaw overnight. If there is need to rush it, place frozen food in plastic filled with cold water. Change the water and repeat process until frozen food is fit for cooking.
- After cooking food, you can put out the fire, but keep food in the container with a lid on. The heat will continue to cook it.
- If you are serving a buffet, place the food in food warmers or chafing dishes, so it remains heated. It will not only please your guests but keep your food from spoiling.
Remember, food poisoning can be avoided. It is always better to prevent than to cure.
If you have people working with you in the food preparation, be sure to teach them the proper hygiene techniques. Also, provide for yourself and your people the appropriate work wear. Have hairnets, aprons, and mitts.
If you have someone who may be sick, like sneezing or coughing, try to have him rest and not work anymore. But if it can’t be helped, at least provide him with a face mask.
The victim of food poisoning would be the best person to gauge if his condition warrants a trip to the hospital or not. Listen to your body.
If it is too weak or too affected by the poison, then you have to seek professional medical help. It is better to be paranoid than to be dead.