Getting sick can have a major impact on your day-to-day schedule, especially if it happens unexpectedly. Food poisoning is one of those illnesses that you can’t see coming, and when it happens, you don’t always know what to do. While food poisoning is typically mild and resolves itself without treatment, in some cases people may need to go to the emergency room. Knowing what to do if you have food poisoning and how to recognize the severity can be critical to protecting your health. Here’s some valuable information on this unpleasant sickness.
How Do You Get Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning, also known as food borne illness, is caused by eating food that is contaminated by some sort of bacteria, virus, or even parasite. Food can become contaminated at any point during production, processing, at-home handling, and cooking, which makes it difficult to pinpoint where the contamination happened. Taking proper precautions when it comes to preparing your own food is critical to avoid getting sick.
Do I Have Food Poisoning?
Typically, food poisoning symptoms arise within a few hours of ingesting the responsible food.
These symptoms include:
- Watery or bloody diarrhea
- Abdominal pains and cramping
- Mild fever
- Loss of appetite
In most cases, food poisoning will resolve itself within a day or two. But that isn’t always then case. If you have any lingering symptoms or your illness becomes more severe, seek medical attention immediately.
Types of Food Poisoning
Food contamination can happen at any point, but food poisoning is often the result of cross-contamination—the transfer of harmful organisms from one surface to another. These organisms include bacteria, viruses and parasites, with bacteria being the most common cause of food poisoning. Here are the most common sources of the illness.
Salmonella is a bacteria that infects the intestinal tract. It is the leading cause of food poisoning in the country. Food or water becomes contaminated with this bacteria by coming into contact with animal feces.
Another bacteria, E. coli is found in normal human and animal intestines. But some strains present in animal feces can cause sickness. Outbreaks typically arise from eating undercooked beef.
Listeria is a bacteria found in unpasteurized dairy products and processed meats. This bacteria can cause listeriosis, an infection that can cause flu-like symptoms and miscarriage in pregnant women, and headaches, convulsions, and other nasty symptoms in others.
Norovirus, a contagious virus that causes food poisoning, is also referred to as the “stomach bug” or “stomach flu.” It is usually transferred to food by the handler that has prepared the food. The virus causes symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain.
Another virus, hepatitis A, can spread through raw shellfish like oysters and can cause liver disease. Luckily, this illness has a vaccine—in fact, it’s one of the few food borne diseases that can be vaccinated against.
Preventing Food Poisoning
Unless you plan to only eat food you’ve personally grown and prepared, there is no way to guarantee you’ll never find yourself dealing with food poisoning. But there are several precautions you can take in order to help keep bacteria, viruses, and parasites at bay. Make sure that you are washing your hands frequently in general, as well as before and after you handle food. This will help prevent the spread of germs, protecting you and those around you. Additionally, make sure that your surfaces and utensils are always cleaned with soap and water before and after use to keep things sanitary.
One of the most important things you can do to prevent food poisoning is cook your food to the correct temperatures, or if consuming raw fruits and vegetables, making sure they are properly washed before consumption. Ground beef should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, steaks, roasts and chops, such as lamb, pork and veal, to at least 145 degrees, and chicken and turkey to 165 degrees. Consider purchasing a meat thermometer to ensure your cuts are reaching safe temperatures.
Make sure to keep uncooked meat away from other foods in your refrigerator, as well. This will help prevent cross-contamination. Also make sure to defrost food safely—instead of taking it out of the freezer and leaving it on the counter, place it in the fridge so it can defrost at a slower pace. Lastly, if you are unsure about a food or if the expiration date has come and gone, play it safe and dispose of it.
Head to The Urgency Room to Treat Food Poisoning
Food poisoning isn’t just an unpleasant experience; it can get dangerous by causing dehydration and loss of nutrients. The Urgency Room can provide medications to treat nausea and can provide IV fluids for dehydration. They also can do blood work to evaluate for electrolyte abnormalities or kidney dysfunction. If you suspect you have food poisoning and need treatment, head to your nearest Urgency Room right away. Open 365 days a year in Eagan, Vadnais Heights, and Woodbury, we provide treatment from board-certified emergency room physicians, who can help you get back on your feet.