Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating contaminated food. It is also frequently referred to as foodborne illness or foodborne disease. It affects approximately one in six Americans each year.
Most food poisoning is caused by harmful bacteria present in the food, microbes that will enter the stomach and move on to the intestines or create toxins that move into the bloodstream. There are other causes, as well, including parasites, viruses, allergens, molds and other toxins. Some of the biggest culprits are bacteria such as salmonella, campylobacter, E. coli and listeria.
Symptoms and Complications
Many with food poisoning experience a minor digestive illness and recover quickly. Symptoms of this include abdominal cramping and pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. But the illness can also lead to dangerous and potentially life-threatening complications. These include brain and nerve damage, kidney failure, chronic arthritis and sometimes death. Pregnant women, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses are more susceptible to the effects of food poisoning.
Prevention and Treatment
The best way to prevent food poisoning is to avoid contaminated food, but this can sometimes be difficult to do. You should check the Internet and your local media frequently for any notices of a food recall. When it comes to preparing your own food, it is very important to cook all meats thoroughly and wash fruits and vegetables extensively before preparation. Avoid cross-contaminating different foods, and wash your hands thoroughly before, after and several times during food preparation. Also, chill any leftovers shortly after the completion of the meal.
For minor food poisoning, it’s important to replenish the fluids lost with water or a drink with electrolytes, and anti-diarrheal drugs are helpful in many cases. Be sure to see a doctor if symptoms worsen or alarming symptoms develop.
SOURCES:U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention