What is food poisoning?

food poisoning

Whether it was the mouth-watering street food you had last night or the leftovers that you munched on a few hours back, you find yourself using the bathroom a bit too often.

Food poisoning, also called food-borne illness, is illness caused by eating contaminated food. Infectious organisms — including bacteria, viruses, and parasites — or their toxins are the most common causes of food poisoning.

Infectious organisms or their toxins can contaminate food at any point of processing or production. Contamination can also occur at home if food is incorrectly handled or cooked. Food poisoning symptoms, which can start within hours of eating contaminated food, often include nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Most often, food poisoning is mild and resolves without treatment. But some people need to go to the hospital.

Food poisoning symptoms vary with the source of contamination. Most types of food poisoning cause one or more of the following signs and symptoms nausea, vomiting, watery or bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps and fever.

Signs and symptoms may start within hours after eating the contaminated food, or they may begin days or even weeks later. Sickness caused by food poisoning generally lasts from a few hours to several days. Contamination of food can happen at any point in production: growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping, or preparing. Cross-contamination — the transfer of harmful organisms from one surface to another — is often the cause. This is especially troublesome for raw, ready-to-eat foods, such as salads or other produce. Because these foods aren’t cooked, harmful organisms aren’t destroyed before eating and can cause food poisoning.

Many bacterial, viral, or parasitic agents cause food poisoning. The most common serious complication of food poisoning is dehydration — a severe loss of water and essential salts and minerals. If you’re a healthy adult and drink enough to replace fluids you lose from vomiting and diarrhea; dehydration shouldn’t be a problem.

Some types of food poisoning have potentially serious complications for certain people. The complications of a listeria food poisoning may be most severe for an unborn baby. Early in pregnancy, a listeria infection may lead to miscarriage. Later in pregnancy, a listeria infection may lead to stillbirth, premature birth, or potentially fatal disease in the baby after birth — even if the mother was only mildly ill. Infants who survive a listeria infection may experience long-term neurological damage and delayed development.

Certain E. coli strains can cause a severe complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome. This syndrome damages the lining of the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, sometimes leading to kidney failure. If you’re in one of these risk categories, see your doctor at the first sign of profuse or bloody diarrhea. Food poisoning is especially dangerous and potentially life-threatening for young children, pregnant women and their fetuses, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. These individuals should take extra precautions by avoiding the following foods raw or rare meat and poultry, raw or undercooked fish or shellfish, including oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops, raw or undercooked eggs or foods that may contain them, such as cookie dough and homemade ice cream and fresh sprouts, such as alfalfa, bean, clover and radish sprouts.

Food poisoning can happen to anyone at any point in time. So, if you have ended up with this problem, visit your doctor if the symptoms get worse!

Until Next Time,

Team Doctor ASKY!

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