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Food poisoning or foodborne illness is an infection or irritation of the digestive tract caused by consuming food or drink contaminated with infectious organisms or their toxins. In this article, you will know about everything about Food Poisoning causes and all about signs and symptoms of Food Poisoning.
The cause of food poisoning as discussed above is consuming food contaminated with an infectious organism which can be a bacteria, virus, or a parasite or their toxins. Harmful chemicals can also lead to food poisoning. Contamination of food can occur at any stage of food production or processing. This can occur outside or even at home wherever the food is improperly handled or cooked. This can increase the level of signs and symptoms of Food Poisoning.
The infectious organism can get access to the food and contaminate it through various route:
• From a person carrying these organisms who are handling or preparing the food.
• From another contaminated food or surfaces like using contaminated cutting boards or knives.
• From the food itself which if not washed or cooked properly can infect people.
The signs and symptoms of food poisoning depend upon the infectious microorganism which enters the body with food. These Symptoms of Food Poisoning can develop right after consumption of food to several days to weeks after the food was consumed.
The most common symptoms of Food Poisoning include:
• Diarrhea which can be watery or bloody
• Abdominal pain and cramps
The symptoms of food poisoning may generally last from a few hours to several days.
Less commonly, food poisoning may cause some neurologic symptoms of Food Poisoning, like blurry vision, dizziness, or tingling in the arms.
In rare cases, food poisoning may lead to some life-threatening issues like kidney failure, arthritis, and meningitis, depending on the type of infective micro-organism and body condition.
A person should consult a doctor if his or her symptoms of Food Poisoning are persistent or severe, if there’s an underlying medical condition, or if there are worrisome signs or symptoms of Food Poisoning like:
• Frequent episodes of vomiting
• Bloody vomit or stools
• Diarrhea for more than 3 days or more than 6 watery stools in a 24 hrs
• Severe pain in the abdomen
• Fever, greater than 100.4 F (38 C), taken orally.
• Signs or symptoms of dehydration- excessive thirst, dry mouth, little or no urination, severe tiredness, dizziness, or confusion especially in the presence of watery diarrhea.
•Neurological symptoms such as muscle weakness, blurred vision, and tingling in the arms.
Young children and older adults with symptoms of Food poisoning should consult a doctor immediately, as these groups tend to get dehydrated more easily.
Whether a person develops symptoms of Food Poisoning and falls sick after eating contaminated food depends on the infective organism, the amount of exposure, age, immunity, and general health of the person.
Broadly they can be classified into individual factors and environmental factors:
People with decreased immunity, specific body conditions, and diseases form a high-risk group which has a higher tendency to develop illness than an otherwise healthy individual:
Older adults: with age, the immune system may get weakened and less effective to fight against infectious organisms entering the body.
Pregnant women: the body changes occurring in pregnancy may predispose to increased risk of food poisoning which may be more severe than occurring in normal individuals. Rarely, the child may also develop the illness.
Infants and young children: immune system is still immature and thus predisposed to developing foodborne illness more often.
Chronic diseases: such as diabetes, liver disease, or AIDS.
Immunity suppressing treatment: people receiving chemotherapy, radiation therapy for cancer or people receiving immunosuppressants increases the risk of developing a foodborne illness.
These are the factors that increase the risk of contamination of food involving any stage of food preparation or storage before it enters the body:
Improper food storage before and after preparation of food- Leaving prepared food at room temperature for more than 2 hours especially in hot and humid conditions
Improper cooking or reheating of food after preparation
Preparing or handling food with unwashed or dirty hands especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets.
Preparing food in unhygienic places or using contaminated items like knives, counters, or cutting boards.
Uncooked or undercooked food is more susceptible to cause foodborne illness especially prepared and kept at unhygienic places with more sources of infection, eg: uncooked or undercooked food like salads or meat. The heating of food while preparing generally kills micro-organisms.
After the causes of Food Poisoning, Risk factors and symptoms of Food poisoning, learn about its complications is also important.
Dehydration: The commonest serious complication of food poisoning is dehydration which can occur due to diarrhea and or vomiting. It causes loss of water and essential salts and minerals from the body.
Infants, older adults, and people with suppressed immunity or chronic illnesses may become severely dehydrated and may need hospital admission and significant medical care. In extreme cases, dehydration can also cause death.
The food poisoning caused by certain microbes has the potential to cause serious complications in some people. These include:
• Listeria infection: Food poisoning with listeria monocytogenes can have severe implications during pregnancy. It may cause miscarriage in early pregnancy. In the later period of pregnancy, it may cause stillbirth, premature birth, or a potentially fatal newborn infection after birth, even when the mother is mildly sick. Infants surviving a listeria infection may develop neurological damage and delayed development.
• Escherichia coli (E. coli) infection: Some E. coli strains can cause a serious complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome where the infection causes damages the lining of the tiny blood vessels within the kidneys, sometimes resulting into kidney failure. Elders, children younger than 5 and people with weak immunity are at a higher risk of developing this complication. These people should consult a doctor immediately in case of profuse or bloody diarrhea.
Food poisoning normally occurs due to the consumption contaminated food and drink. The reason of the contamination could be bacteria, parasites, fungus or virus which may lead to infection in your stomach. Identifying them becomes important to treat the infection.
The doctor will take your detailed clinical history which includes symptoms of Food Poisoning, duration, when it started and any specific food that you have had.
The details of how to diagnose food poisoning is given in the further article, which you can access by clicking on the below button.
Normally, most cases of food poisoning resolve on its own within 4-5 days. Some cases may take longer period of time to resolve. It mostly happens in those cases where symptoms of food poisoning are severe and uncontrollable.
Food poisoning often leads to dehydration which is a dangerous condition which mostly affects the children and older people.
The treatment of food poisoning consists of:
• Maintaining adequate water content and salt
• Lifestyle changes
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