Summer is the time for picnics and social gatherings. This brings about an increased chance of food poisoning which is vomiting and/or diarrhea that comes about from eating contaminated food. The most common form of food poisoning is from infectious organisms, such as bacteria and viruses. When eating outside the home, these organisms can contaminate food at any point during its production, processing, or serving. More commonly, contamination can also occur in the home. This happens because of food that is improperly handled, incorrectly cooked, or inadequately stored. The most common food culprits are chicken products, fish, and shellfish. Another common source of food poisoning is from food that has been cooked and left unrefrigerated for too long, especially at buffets and outdoor picnics.
Steps to prevent food poisoning:
- Wash hands, utensils and food prep surfaces frequently and thoroughly with soap and water.
- Keep raw foods separate from ready to eat foods.
- Cook foods to a safe temperature.
- Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods promptly.
- “When in doubt-throw it out.”
Signs and symptoms of food poisoning may start within hours or up to one to two days after eating the contaminated food. The most common symptoms of food poisoning are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea. The vomiting and diarrhea are the body’s way of eliminating the contaminated food.
There is no easy method to differentiate between food poisoning and common stomach flu other than if more than one person comes down with vomiting and/or diarrhea after eating a common meal, then food poisoning is the probable culprit. Fortunately, the symptoms of either food poisoning, or of stomach flu, are usually mild and often resolve without treatment.
The best treatment for food poisoning is to let it run its course. In most cases, once the body rids itself of the contaminated food, the symptoms improve. For this reason, anti diarrhea medicine is not recommended because it may slow down the healing process. If diarrhea must be controlled because of travel plans or work responsibilities, then an over the counter medication, such as Immodium, may be helpful.
The main goal of treatment is to replace lost body fluids to prevent dehydration. This can be done by drinking lots of liquids, such as electrolyte drinks for adults or Pedialyte for children. A proven method to help prevent dehydration in spite of frequent vomiting is to take frequent small sips of clear liquids until vomiting stops
When to seek medical attention:
- Inability to keep any liquids down for more than 6-8 hours.
- No urine production for 6-8 hours.
- Vomiting or diarrhea lasting more than 2-3 days.
- Blood in vomit or diarrhea.
- Severe abdominal pain.
Have a safe and enjoyable summer. Bon appetit!