A term used to describe illnesses suspected of being caused by contaminated food (or beverages). Food poisoning can affect all ages. Outbreaks can affect several members of a household, customers who dined at the same restaurant, nursing home patients, cruise ship passengers, university students, children in daycare, or shoppers who bought contaminated food in a store.
FREQUENT SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Symptoms can begin within hours to days after eating the food. It depends on the cause of the contamination and how much food was ingested (eaten).
Nausea and vomiting.
Abdominal cramps or pain.
Fever, chills, headache, and weakness may occur.
In severe cases, shock and collapse.
Bacterial organisms such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and others. Botulism is a rare, life-threatening food poisoning.
Virus infections such as Norwalk virus (a common contaminant of shellfish), adenovirus, and rotavirus.
Chemical causes such as contamination with insecticide or food served in lead-glazed pottery.
Eating plants or animals that contain a naturally occurring poison, such as mushrooms or toadstools. Shellfish may contain a toxin that is not destroyed by cooking.
R ISK INCREASES WITH
Eating food that is improperly prepared.
Lack of good hygiene when preparing food.
Drinking water or eating raw foods when traveling in a foreign country.
Avoid raw seafood or meat.
Avoid unpasteurized food products.
Properly cook and store foods.
Keep food preparation areas and utensils clean.
Throw food items away that are old, have an "off" smell, or those in bulging tin cans.
Always wash hands before preparing food.
Most cases are mild and clear up within a few days.
Dehydration is the most common complication. More serious complications are rare but can be life-threatening, especially in very young or elderly patients or persons with weak immune systems.
DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT
In mild cases, self-care may be all that is needed. See a health care provider if symptoms are other than mild.
Your health care provider may do a physical exam. Questions will be asked about your symptoms and recent foods you have eaten, and whether other people have eaten the same foods. Cultures may be made from a stool sample. If some of the food that made you sick is available, you may be asked to bring it in for testing.
The main treatment is to replace fluid and electrolytes (salts and minerals) lost through vomiting or diarrhea.
Hospital care may be required if symptoms are severe. Fluids may be given through a vein (IV).
If several persons are affected, local health department should be contacted. They can interview patients and food handlers and take samples of suspected contaminated food.
Usually, drugs are not needed to treat food poisoning. They may be prescribed for certain symptoms.
Antibiotics may be prescribed.
Get extra rest until diarrhea, vomiting, and fever are improved. Be sure to have access to a toilet or bedpan.
Suck ice chips or drink small amounts of clear fluids often. Replace lost fluids and electrolytes with products such as Pedialyte or Ricelyte for infants and children, and diluted rehydration fluids (Gatorade) for adults.
Once the symptoms improve, try a diet of complex carbohydrates (rice, wheat, potatoes, bread, cereal, and lean meat such as chicken). Milk and dairy products usually do not need to be limited.
Avoid high-sugar foods or fatty foods for a few days.
NOTIFY OUR OFFICE IF
You or a family member has signs or symptoms of food poisoning.
Symptoms get worse or do not improve in a few days.