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picnic

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:

  1. Wash hands, utensils and food prep surfaces frequently and thoroughly with soap and water.
  2. Keep raw foods separate from ready to eat foods.
  3. Cook foods to a safe temperature.
  4. Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods promptly.
  5. “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:

  1. Inability to keep any liquids down for more than 6-8 hours.
  2. No urine production for 6-8 hours.
  3. Vomiting or diarrhea lasting more than 2-3 days.
  4. Blood in vomit or diarrhea.
  5. Severe abdominal pain.

Have a safe and enjoyable summer. Bon appetit!

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Summer-S

Over the course of my emergency/urgent care career I’ve dealt with many different injuries and illnesses seen commonly during the summer months. I’d like to share some of my thoughts on making this a very safe summer for everyone.

Sunscreen – Almost everyone who spends time out in the sun must wear sunscreen to block the harmful, damaging effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays on our sensitive skin. Use a sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF rating of at least 30. Apply it liberally and often (at least every two hours). Parents, protect your kids’ precious skin.

Insects – Beware of the many summer bugs lurking out there. For mosquito protection, use a repellant that contains DEET, which when used as directed is safe for adults and children over 2 months of age. Regarding the stinging insects such as yellow jackets, wasps and honey bees, avoid them if they are in your vicinity. If you do get stung by a honey bee (which is the only one of the stinging insects that leaves a stinger behind in your skin), remove it as quickly as possible by any means possible. It is now okay to just pull it out with your fingers and not waste time finding something with which to scrape it off. Immediately apply ice to the sting. When out in a woody or grassy area always check your entire body for ticks when you get home. If you find one, remove it as soon as possible by getting a pair of tweezers, grabbing the tick close to the skin and pulling it straight out.

Poison oak – The best protection is to recognize it and avoid it. If you come into contact with poison oak with your skin, clothing (including shoes and shoelaces), or garden tools, wash off immediately with soap and water. Poison oak oil must be washed off of your skin within a few minutes in order to avoid the dreaded rash. Remember, all parts of the poison oak plant contain the nasty oil, including the leaves, branches and roots.

Heat – Heat exhaustion is manifested by extreme sweating, fatigue and cramps. Heat stroke (a life-threatening condition) is manifested by lack of sweating, red hot skin, and a very high body temperature. Both conditions can usually be prevented by drinking plenty of liquids and avoiding direct sunlight as much as possible, especially between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Water safety – 4,000 Americans drown every year, mostly men by a factor of four times more than women. Alcohol is frequently involved. Make sure the kids are supervised in the water every single minute. Watch out for rapid currents, rip tides, rocks, and always be aware of your surroundings. Boat injuries claim another 700 American lives a year. Drive your boat sensibly, have enough life preservers on board and do not drink alcohol and drive.

Bicycling – Wear a helmet! No matter how obvious this bit of advice is, I still see people riding without a helmet and I really cringe when I see children without this life-saving protection. Head injuries are often very serious, if not deadly, and are inexcusable for lack of a helmet. Be aware of your surroundings and be in control of your bike at all times. Don’t take foolish chances.

Eating – Summer picnics can be a common source of food poisoning manifested by vomiting and/or diarrhea. Food left out too long is the usual culprit. Handling uncooked chicken or eating undercooked chicken is also a common source of this illness.

Driving – We all drive more during the summer. The cheapest form of life insurance while you are in a car is the good old seat belt. Wear it! Make sure your children are in proper age-appropriate car seats. Handheld cell phone use while driving your car can be deadly and is now illegal. Don’t break the law.

Have a very enjoyable safe summer.

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