Category Archives: Food Poisoning

Mild Food Poisoning

Mild food poisoning is a frequently manifested ailment, caused due to consumption of contaminated foods and drinks. To be more precise, food items are fouled by carelessness in cooking, storing, and preserving, which overall may cause bacterial growth and accumulation of toxins. Food poisoning is often a mild and short-term ailment, but at times, the symptoms may be severe and life-threatening, lasting for more than a week.

Causes

Mild food poisoning is caused by contamination either with infectious agents or toxic components. The former implies to disease causing microbes, such as bacteria (e.g., Salmonella, E. coli), viruses, and parasites; whereas, the latter represents non-edible or toxic food sources (e.g., pesticides, poisonous mushrooms) and improper cooking of certain food items. In majority of the cases, poor hygiene while cooking is the leading cause.

Depending on the cause and the extent of poisoning or the amount of contaminated food consumed, the discomfort symptoms vary from one patient to another. As per health experts, the condition usually lasts for 1-2 days. However, depending upon the cause of the ailment, it may take about 2 weeks for complete recovery.

Signs

Mild to severe poisoning that affects many people at a time after consuming the same contaminated food, is called an outbreak. Commonly manifested signs include stomach pain, upset stomach, loss of appetite, and other gastrointestinal problems, like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Though fever is usually not seen in most cases, some patients do have high temperature.

Symptoms may be observed immediately after consuming the toxic foods or may occur after several days. For example, consuming poisonous mushrooms causes abnormal symptoms within a few hours; while having foods contaminated with bacteria may take some time to cause noticeable symptoms. It is not unusual to mistake this as stomach flu, in which the latter is exclusively caused due to a bacterial or viral infection.

Treatment

As the symptoms are rarely dangerous, most people do not require therapeutic intervention for treatment. And many of them recover successfully after trying effective remedies. Thus, there is lack of medical data that reveals the actual statistics of such incidences. Some of the best recommended home treatments are:

Drink ample amounts of water and keep yourself hydrated. Otherwise frequent diarrhea and vomiting may result in dehydration.
Even if you do not feel like eating, try consuming dry and easily digestible foods. Strictly avoid hot, spicy, and acidic foods, which may aggravate the symptoms.
An effective home remedy is to include probiotic foods and electrolytes drinks in your diet. This will help in treating the symptoms and replace the lost electrolytes.
Take adequate rest and stay calm while dealing with the symptoms. Follow personal hygiene and simple self-care tips to prevent contamination of food as far as possible.

This was in brief on how to treat mild food poisoning at home. In case of dehydration or persistence of the poisoning signs even after following natural remedies, therapeutic treatment by a qualified doctor is necessary. The physician may conduct urine and stool tests for presence of blood cells and harmful germs, after which appropriate medicines are prescribed.

Bacterial Food Poisoning

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, food poisoning is the cause for about 76 million illnesses, 3,25,000 hospitalizations, and up to 5,000 deaths every year. Food poisoning is a common illness that occurs immediately after consuming contaminated food or drinks. Although generally a mild condition, it can also result in death.

This illness reveals itself in the form of diarrhea, vomiting, fever, chills, dehydration, bloody stools, etc. It can be caused by infectious agents such as bacteria, parasites, or even viruses. Moreover, it can also be caused by toxic agents like poisonous mushrooms, pesticides on fruits and vegetables, or improperly cooked foods. Improperly handled, packaged, or stored foods also lead to food poisoning.

What is Bacterial Food Poisoning?

Bacteria dwelling in the intestines of infected humans or pets, poultry, cattle, etc., can cause diarrhea in humans. Their feces can contaminate recreational water, drinking water, soil, meat during slaughter, etc. Not washing one’s hands after using the washroom also results in this condition. Ear, throat, nose, and urinary infections can also result in food poisoning. Moreover, consuming undercooked beef, shellfish, raw eggs, raw milk (not pasteurized), non-adequately stored or cooled food, can also result in bacterial food poisoning.

Symptoms

Symptoms will begin to appear about 48 hours after consumption of contaminated food. The symptoms that may occur are as follows:

Nausea and occasional vomiting
General malaise with fever (occasionally)
Diarrhea (loose or watery stools)
Bloating
Abdominal cramps

These were some mild food poisoning symptoms. Severe diarrhea can lead to dehydration, tiredness, sunken eyes, thirst, and decreased urination.

In bacterial food poisoning, the bacteria spearheads inflammation of the stomach, small intestine, colon, or rectum. This inflammation reduces the amount of nutrients and water absorbed in the small intestine, thereby, resulting in diarrhea. Severe cases of infection can lead to ulcers and in some extreme cases, bacteria can even enter the blood and affect other organs of the body.

Common Bacteria Involved in Food Poisoning

Staphylococcus aureus
Food poisoning due to this bacteria occurs mainly by consuming foods that involve bare hands preparation, such as in salads, sandwiches, etc. When such food items are left at room temperature for a long period of time, bacteria grow and produce toxins. Maintaining good personal hygiene and refrigeration of food items will keep bacterial invasion at bay.

Salmonella
Salmonella is passed to humans from animals (poultry and pets). It is commonly caused by consumption of unpasteurized milk or undercooked poultry, meat, or eggs. Bacteria can spread from the intestine to other organs of the body.

Clostridium botulinum
This bacteria is responsible for one in every 400 cases of food poisoning in the US. Clostridium botulinum can exist as heat-resistant spores that grow and produce neurotoxins in processed, home-canned food products. The toxin produced by this bacteria can be destroyed by boiling the food for 10 minutes.

Campylobacter jejuni
This bacteria attacks those with a weak immune system, and at times even causes arthritis, brain and nerve problems, etc., besides food poisoning.

Listeria
This bacteria is mainly found in soil and water. Vegetables growing in contaminated soil can be vectors of this bacteria. They are found in several types of uncooked meats and vegetables. Processed food like soft cheese and cold cuts can also get contaminated after processing.

Shigella (traveler’s diarrhea)
The bacteria is transmitted through feces and may cause dysentery and severe diarrhea. Unhygienic conditions in highly populated areas form breeding grounds for these bacteria.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Bacillus cereus, Clostridium perfringens, Yersinia enterocolitica, and Escherichia coli can also cause bacterial food poisoning.

Mild form of food poisoning usually subsides on its own within 2-3 days. During this time, the patient is advised to drink lots of water in order to prevent dehydration. Severe cases of diarrhea call for stool culture tests, since the tests will determine the kind of antibiotic treatment required. Presence of leukocytes and mysterious blood can be signs of bacterial invasions and need to be treated with antibiotics.

Home Remedies for Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is an illness caused by the consumption of contaminated, uncooked, or stale food. More than 250 diseases are transmitted through food. The symptoms include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, stomach muscle cramps, fever, and dehydration. The problem is that, these symptoms start showing only hours after eating contaminated food; so sometimes, they may be harder to handle than the disease itself. The symptoms have to be treated immediately to avoid further complications. Some of the following home remedies may prove useful in dealing with it.

One good remedy to induce vomiting is original coca-cola. Let it stand till it becomes completely flat, drink two big glasses of it every hour, and then have water. Repeat this for sometime. This method was first used by soldiers in the U.K.
Complete bed rest is advisable to preserve energy, as your body needs it to heal itself.
Drink some warm water with lemon juice in it. It will soothe your stomach.
Have black tea with burned toasts. Instead of having normal tea, have ginger, herbal, caraway, or green tea.
Avoid eating spicy and fatty food.
Eat green vegetables and fruits.
Even cinnamon is a good remedy against food poisoning. Either have it in your tea, or mix some cinnamon powder with boiled water, and have it 2 – 3 times a day.
Eat aniseed; it is also known to decrease acidity. Stay away from pepper, until you feel better.
Steer clear of milk, coffee, drinking, and smoking. These may worsen the situation.
If you are suffering from nausea, limit your diet to soups, and clear liquids.
Grate ginger, and have it with some honey (your grandma must have told you about this one). You may also have some ginger juice with lime water, to get instant relief from vomiting.
To get relief from nausea, keep a clove between your teeth for sometime.
Have some roasted nutmeg powder, and drink hot water after it. You may also have homemade yogurt, added with 2 – 3 basil leaves extract to it.
Prepare a mixture by adding 1 tsp. edible gum, 1 tsp. poppy seeds, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg powder, 1 tsp. cardamom powder, and 2 tsp. sugar; grind to powder form. Eat this powder, every two hours.
Take a raw papaya, grate it, or cut it into small pieces; add it to 1 – 2 glasses of water. Boil this mixture, drain it, and have it 2 – 3 times in a day.
Due to diarrhea and vomiting, your body tends to get dehydrated, so remember to keep yourself as hydrated as possible.
Have sports drinks or fortified bottled water, for replacing the body’s lost electrolyte. Popsicles and frozen juice bars are another good option.
During poisoning due to food, the potassium count in the body becomes considerably low; this could turn out to be fatal. Eat a banana, they are very good source of potassium.
Avoid taking pain killers for stomach pain. Instead, place heating bags or hot water bottles on your stomach for relief from pain.
Drink a glass of water mixed with ¼ cup charcoal powder.
Take 10 – 15 cumin and fenugreek seeds each, powder it, mix it in water and have it. This gives relief from abdominal pain and vomiting.
After feeling better, don’t follow a heavy diet immediately; stay away from spicy or fried food, meat, and alcohol. Having soup is a good option; they are tasty, and easy to digest.

The best possible remedy for food poisoning is prevention. If possible, avoid eating fast food. Eat fresh and well-cooked food. Always cover the food, and heat it before eating. Wash your hands frequently. Don’t re-use the leftover oil in the pan. Everyday, after getting up, have some hot water with lemon juice; this will detoxify your body.

Staphylococcal Food Poisoning – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Staphylococcus aureus is a very common bacteria found on the skin, nose, mouth, and throat of humans and animals. This bacterium is capable of producing seven different toxins, which is why it is considered very harmful. In food, it has an incubation period of 4 to 6 hours. Sometimes, it also causes skin problems, like acne and boils. It is salt tolerant and resistant to heat. Food poisoning caused by this bacterium does not spread from person to person.

Causes

Food products either uncooked or inadequately heated may get contaminated by this bacteria.
Contamination is also possible through infected fingers, boils, abscesses, and purulent lesions of hand and nose.
It multiplies in food products, like fish, dairy products, ham, poultry, bakery, and egg products if these foods are not stored in hygienic conditions.

Symptoms

Nausea
Vomiting
Retching
Diarrhea
Stomach cramping
General weakness

These are some of the common symptoms observed. However, in severe cases, headache, dehydration, change in blood pressure and pulse rate, and even muscle cramps may occur.

Treatment

There is no medicine for staphylococcal food poisoning. Even antibiotics are not an effective remedy, because the toxins produced by these bacteria are not affected by antibiotics. This poisoning causes a brief illness. Proper rest and consumption of plenty of fluids to calm the stomach are the possible ways to overcome the symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting. Patients with low resistance, such as young children and elderly people are more likely to suffer severe illness, and it may require intravenous therapy and hospitalization.

Prevention

Do not store food products for more than four hours at room temperature.
Refrigerate cooked food items as soon as possible. To store food, use shallow, uncovered containers or covered containers with vents to allow the heat to escape.
Wash your hands and fingernails with soap and water before preparing the food, and avoid touching your face while preparing it.
Do not let anyone with exposed skin infections, such as boils or wounds on the hands to handle the food.
Avoid touching the food with bare hands.
Cool and reheat the food at least once.
Avoid cooking if you have a nose or an eye infection.
Keep the kitchen area clean and sanitized, and serve fresh and warm food.
If the food has to be kept for longer than two hours, then keep it either hot over 140°F or cold under 40°F.

Those who have already suffered from this food poisoning before, should try to stick to their regular diet as far as possible. Eating your normal diet will help you get maximum nutrition. Avoid eating food products that are high in fat and sugar. It is also best to avoid alcohol, spicy food, and coffee for at least 2 days after all the symptoms have disappeared.

Be careful while eating outside food because it may be contaminated with staphylococcal bacteria. Prepare and store food in hygienic conditions. Follow these simple tips, and protect yourself from food poisoning.

Botulism Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is the result of consuming food contaminated with toxins and bacteria that are harmful to our health. Eating food that contains a specific bacteria, known as Clostridium botulinum, often causes botulism food poisoning. The bacteria produces the botulinum toxin, that can lead to paralytic illnesses. The powerful toxin spreads in the body through the bloodstream and causes harm to the nerves that are responsible for controlling the muscles.

The toxin impairs nerve functions, causing respiratory and musculoskeletal paralysis. Although Botulism is a rare disease, it can easily be fatal. Clostridium Botulinum is frequently found in soil and intestinal tract of fish and animals. This is a serious type of food borne disease, that occurs by consuming improperly preserved foods, particularly the ones with a low pH. These include beets, green beans, mushroom and corn. Certain conditions, such as temperatures between 4.5 and 49 degree Celsius, can promote the growth of this bacteria.

The toxin thrives in home cooked and commercially cooked foods, that are not properly preserved. Canned foods can be a source of botulism infection, if proper canning steps are not followed. The bacteria can also be transmitted through tightly wrapped and vacuum packed food. Uncured meats or those free from sodium nitrate, contain Clostridium botulinum. This is because sodium nitrate is capable of destroying the bacteria.

Infants can also contract this type of food poisoning, when they ingest honey or corn syrup as these foods contain spores of C. botulinum. However, honey is safe for children who are more than one year of age.

Symptoms

Symptoms are generally noticed within 18 to 36 hours after the consumption of contaminated food. In some cases, the symptoms may appear as early as 4 hours. As the bacteria affects the nervous system, the illness should be treated as soon as possible. Symptoms include

Weakness
Dizziness
Nausea
Abdominal cramps
Drooping eyelids

The symptoms generally aggravate and lead to

Dry mouth
Blurred vision
Trouble swallowing and speaking
Difficulty in breathing
Muscle paralysis

If the treatment is delayed, muscle paralysis may affect the arms, legs and respiratory muscles, that could cause suffocation, which ultimately leads to death.

Diagnosis

A physical examination is done by the doctor to look for visible symptoms. The doctors may also inquire about the food consumed recently. To confirm the diagnosis, a stool sample is taken and sent to the laboratory for further analysis. Blood tests can also done to verify the presence of toxins in the body. Certain lab tests are also performed on the food to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

In the United States, the frequency of botulism is very less, as only 35 to 40 cases of this type of food poisoning are reported every year. The Botulinum anti-toxin is commonly used to treat this form of treatment. An anti-toxin does not allow the toxin to circulate in the bloodstream. People with breathing problems are put on a respirator. Other supportive therapy is also provided. When the patient finds it difficult to swallow foods, intravenous fluids are given.

Implementing strict hygienic practices while canning food, can greatly reduce the risk of botulism infection. The bacteria cannot survive high temperatures and so, canned food should be eaten only after boiling it for 10 minutes. Prompt treatment can definitely speed up the recovery process of the patient.

Food Poisoning Symptoms

A food-borne condition, food poisoning occurs when we eat or drink anything that contains toxins, chemicals, or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc. More often than not, this condition occurs due to the consumption of food items, beverages, or water that is contaminated by bacteria. Some of the bacteria that are commonly responsible for causing this food-borne illness include Salmonella, Campylobacter jejuni, Shigella, Staphylococcus aureus, Vibrio cholera, and Escherichia coli. This condition can be diagnosed, if one is aware about the symptoms of food poisoning. The following sections list out the symptoms, contributing factors, and preventive measures of this food-borne illness.

Symptoms

Food poisoning will usually occur within a few minutes to about 8 hours after you have ingested the contaminated food. The symptoms could include one or more of the following:

➻ Abdominal cramps
➻ Nausea
➻ Vomiting
➻ Sudden and severe diarrhea
➻ Sudden unexplained fever usually accompanied by other symptoms
➻ Aching muscles
➻ Unexplained fatigue
➻ Severe headache

If the food poisoning is caused by a chemical or toxin, the onset of the symptoms will be faster, in comparison to food poisoning that is caused by a bacterium or virus.

Contributing Factors

Home-cooked food, or raw fruits or vegetables that are eaten at home should not be a cause of worry, as long as they have been washed and cooked properly. Even processed canned foods that have been opened will not cause problems, as long as they are kept at the right temperature. You should be really careful while consuming street food, or food served at food joints, social gatherings, or anywhere outside the house where the food could get contaminated. The reason why food might get contaminated include improper handling of the food, the use of unclean utensils for cooking, not cooking the food properly, keeping the food in the open for long periods, or not storing the food properly. Under such circumstances, bacteria and viruses could enter the food and multiply.

Foods Most Likely to Cause Food Poisoning
It is practically impossible to tell the difference between normal and contaminated food. Both will look the same, smell the same, and taste the same. Foodstuffs that are more likely to get contaminated by pathogens include:

➻ Meat (beef, mutton/lamb, pork, etc.)
➻ Poultry (chicken, duck, wild game, etc.)
➻ Dairy products (unpasteurized milk, cheeses that were not treated properly, etc.)
➻ Fish (Ciguatera, Scombroid, and shellfish)

Besides these, other sources include fresh fruit and vegetables (unwashed and eaten raw), and processed foods that have not been stored at the required temperature.

Who is at Maximum Risk?
Food poisoning is fairly common and can affect anyone, but the level is usually so mild that it goes unnoticed. At times, mild symptoms are experienced, as the immune system responds quickly. However, the symptoms could be severe, if contaminated food is consumed by an infant or an elderly person whose immune system is weak. In such cases, even the slightest bacterial contamination could make them sick. Infants, seniors, and individuals with kidney problems or diabetes should be very careful of what they eat. Also, pregnant women and nursing mothers should eat ensure that they eat food that has been washed and cooked properly. Don’t eat a particular food item in case of even the slightest of doubt.

Preventive Measures

In order to avoid food poisoning, you should follow the measures given below:

➻ Cook all meat, fish, and poultry products thoroughly.

➻ After handling raw meat, fish, and poultry, always wash your hands with soap and dry them before you touch any other food item. Also, wash the kitchenware that was used while handling the raw meat.

➻ Do not cook and keep food without refrigeration for too long. Cook your food just prior to eating it.

➻ If collecting mushrooms from the wild yourselves, please make sure you can correctly identify the mushroom variety. Some of the varieties are poisonous. So, avoid collecting and eating wild mushrooms, unless you have the ability to identify poisonous mushrooms. If you cannot identify these mushrooms, you can buy packaged mushrooms from the supermarket; they are the edible variety and always safe to eat.

➻ While eating canned food, never open a can that is dented or bulging. Bulging cans are a sure sign of bacteria infestation.

➻ Never eat food that smells or tastes even slightly unpleasant. It could a sign of bacterial infestation.

➻ While at an unknown place, always eat freshly cooked hot food.

➻ Before eating raw fruits and vegetables, wash them thoroughly.

➻ Be careful while drinking water at unknown places. Drink boiled or bottled water as far as possible.

➻ Consume shellfish that has been cooked thoroughly. Consuming undercooked shellfish is one of the leading causes of food poisoning.

Consult a doctor at the earliest, if you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms. If left untreated, it could lead to complications that require hospitalization. Since prevention is always better than cure, maintain proper hygiene while handling, cooking, and storing food.