Food Poisoning: Signs and How to Avoid It
Food poisoning is an illness which you probably have heard about in the past. You may have at a time met someone affected by food poisoning or maybe you have suffered it. Food poisoning is a scary and dangerous situation. This is because it happens suddenly after eating with friends or family and may therefore change a happy gathering into a sad one. But have you ever tried to find out how poison gets into your food? If you ever wanted to know about food poisoning and how you can avoid it then you are reading the right stuff. Because all the information you need can easily be found below.
Poison is a toxic substance which may cause injury to your health and lead to a serious illness. In food poisoning toxic substances mix with the food you eat and get transported down inside your body. Food poisoning may lead to death in some situations.
Food poisoning occurs when bacteria contaminate your food and release toxic substances which cause the illness. The bacteria commonly associated with food poisoning include: Staphylococcus aureus; Bacillus cereus; and Clostridium perfringens. These bacteria usually contaminate food that is not appropriately stored then grow and produce toxic chemicals.
Which Foods Get Contaminated?
Cooked meat, milk and milk products such as cheese get contaminated by Staphylococcus bacteria. The contamination occurs through the hands of food handlers. Staphylococcus lives normally on your skin and is easily transferred into foods if care is not taken. When these foods are not properly stored the bacteria grows in it and produce toxic substances. This means two important things help make food poisoning possible: how you handle or prepare food; and how the food is stored.
Fried rice and fresh sauce are also common sources of food poisoning. The spores of Bacillus cereus bacteria contaminate uncooked rice. Spores are hard and resistant form of the bacteria (just like a seed of a plant).
Food poisoning occurs when rice is parboiled and stored at warm temperature to be eaten later. Because the spores of the bacteria are hard they are not killed when you parboil rice. But they actually develop to become adult bacteria when the parboiled rice is stored in warm temperature. The bacteria then produce toxic substances in your parboiled rice. When you then fry the rice in hot oil the bacteria are killed but the toxic substance they produced remain. This will then lead to food poisoning. If however you did not fry the rice but only re-heated it the bacteria and the toxic substance will remain in the food. This will cause illness due to the toxic substances while the bacteria settle down in your intestines and continue to release its poison.
Meat and meat products also get contaminated by the bacteria known as Clostridium perfringens. These bacteria are found in the intestines of animals and on the soil. The spores of the bacteria get in contact with the meat if content of the intestines or soil is allowed to touch the meat. The spores will develop to adult bacteria if the meat is not properly cooked or stored. When the meat is re-heated the bacteria then starts releasing toxic substance because of the heat.
Symptoms of Food Poisoning
Food poisoning causes nausea (a feeling of an urge to vomit) within a few hours after eating the food. This is followed by repeated vomiting in large amounts. Sometimes you may develop diarrhoea (frequent watery stools) but this may not be much. In most situations the illness stops by itself. However if you lose a lot of your body water due to vomiting (and diarrhoea) you may get dehydrated. Dehydration may lead to death if it is not treated immediately. Other symptoms of food poisoning include cramps (pain in the abdomen), body weakness, headache and dizziness.
Treatment of Food Poisoning
Treatment of food poisoning mainly involves replacement of the body fluids you lost while vomiting. This is done by giving you intravenous fluids (IV fluids) in the hospital’s emergency section. You may also require an injection to stop the vomiting. The public health authorities are informed about your case so that they can take samples of the food and investigate.
Food poisoning can be prevented through the following means:
Improve sanitation of your environment as this will reduce the chances of contamination of food from germs.
Improve personal cleanliness to prevent contamination of food from your hands. This means ensure to wash your hands properly before starting to prepare food. Also make sure you wash your hands after visiting the bathroom or when you touch unclean areas.
Foods should be adequately cooked to ensure all bacteria and its spores are killed. Do not parboil rice to store it for later use.
You should store food appropriately in the refrigerator to prevent growth of germs.
Visit your hospital as soon as possible when you start having symptoms after eating a certain food. This will prevent serious complications of vomiting and diarrhoea.
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Walker, B. R., Colledge, N. R., Ralston, S. H. & Penman, I. D. (eds)(2014) Davidson’s Principles and Practice of Medicine. 22nd ed. Churchill Livingstone Elsevier. London
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