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Food Poisoning

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Please note that all content on this website (including, but not limited to, copy, images, commentary, advice, tips, hints, guides, observations) is provided as an informational resource only. It is not a substitute for correct and accurate diagnosis, or recommendation, or treatment by a medical professional. Please ensure that you obtain proper guidance from your GP, or another medical professional. The information provided on this website does not create any patient-medical expert relationship and must not be used in any way as a substitute for such. 

 

 

Food poisoning is a common illness that people get when they eat something contaminated, or toxic. In most cases, individuals will experience symptoms quickly, and these can make the sufferer feel extremely unwell for a short period.

This condition doesn’t usually last long and can be treated at home. However, in some cases, the symptoms of food poisoning can lead to further health issues if not treated.

Many people experience food poisoning at various points in their life, as it can be difficult to spot what food may be contaminated.

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Causes of Food Poisoning

The primary cause of food poisoning is contaminated food. However, there are three main types of things that cause the contamination of food, and these can have different effects on the body.

Bacteria

This is the most prominent cause of food poisoning. We all know some types of bacteria such as E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella. These types of bacteria are some of the most common causes of illness in the UK.

Parasites

Minuscule critters can sometimes be found in food, but these are not as common as bacteria food poisoning. One common parasite known as Toxoplasma is found in cat litter and, surprisingly, is the most common parasite found in food.

Some parasites can live in the digestive systems for years and remain undetected. However, for people that suffer from a weakened immune system, these could pose serious risks.

Viruses

Viruses can also cause food poisoning. One of the most common illnesses that have been identified in recent years is Norovirus. This virus has contributed to millions of cases of food poisoning each year, and for some, it can be fatal.

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In most cases, an individual will notice food poisoning symptoms very quickly, sometimes within an hour. Still, they can appear up to 28 days after. Symptoms vary depending on the type of contaminant ingested.

For many, there are clear signs that you have food poisoning. These include:

  • Stomach ache
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Mild fever

Not all of the symptoms may be experienced at once.

Food poisoning symptoms usually pass within a few days, but in some cases, there are life-threatening signs to watch out for such as:

  • High fever
  • Severe dehydration and passing little fluids
  • Blood in urine
  • Diarrhoea for more than three days
  • Speaking, or sight becomes impaired

If any of these symptoms are displayed, contact a doctor, or hospital immediately.

Treating Food Poisoning

Food poisoning will make you feel generally unwell, and you may feel weak and lethargic while your body starts to recover.

Most cases of food poisoning are treatable at home. If you have experienced vomiting and diarrhoea, then your body may have lost vital fluids and salts. To help replenish these quickly, staying hydrated is critical. Drinks that have high electrolytes can help boost this. Also, fruit juices and coconut water can assist in building carbohydrate levels back up.

Avoid anything that may irritate the digestive system. This includes caffeine and alcohol. You need to restore the balance in your gut to help alleviate the symptoms, so drinking soothing drinks, such as herbal tea and water, can help.

Building your strength back up with food is also essential. At first, you may not feel like eating, but starting with some basic foods will get the body back on track. Foods that are easy to digest and are low in fat include:

  • Bananas
  • Oats
  • Soups
  • Rice
  • Toast
  • Potatoes
  • Crackers.

Foods to avoid during the recovery period include:

  • Dairy products
  • Fatty foods
  • Spicy foods
  • High sugar products.

There are some medications that you can take to ease stomach upset and regulate your bowels. Speak with a pharmacist, or doctor for suitable advice.

Another important part of treating food poisoning is getting adequate rest. If your symptoms have included vomiting and diarrhoea, then your body will be lacking vital minerals, vitamins and salts. This can make you feel tired and weak. While this happens, resting is vital to help the body recover.

In extreme cases of food poisoning, a person may have to visit the hospital. This is due to the body having insufficient fluids and intravenous measures need to be taken.

How to Prevent Food Poisoning

The main thing that prevents food poisoning is the safe handling and preparation of food. In some cases, where you are eating out, this may not always be possible.

Foods such as meat, poultry, eggs and shellfish are the most commonly contaminated during food preparation. While cooking normally kills germs and bacteria, undercooked and raw food products can harbour contaminants.

There are some primary foods that cause food poisoning. These include:

  • Raw, or undercooked fish, or sushi
  • Deli meats not heated, or cooked correctly
  • Unpasteurised milk and dairy products
  • Unwashed fruits and vegetables.

If preparing food at home, make sure your hands are thoroughly washed before cooking. When storing foods, make sure the container is airtight and the food is consumed within the use-by date.

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Medical terms are often baffling and difficult to fully understand. To help, we have listed some frequently used terms below.

E.coli – bacteria that normally lives within the digestive tract. Some strains can cause issues in contaminated food

Intravenous (IV) – medication, or fluids, administered through the veins

Listeria – bacteria that cause the illness, listeriosis

Salmonella – a common bacterial illness that affects the digestive tract and causes diarrhoea