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Food Poisoning: Know the Symptoms and First Aid Treatment

food poisoning

By

August 15, 2022

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When you are exposed to a harmful substance, it can lead to poisoning. This can be due to injecting, swallowing, breathing, or other means. Most poisonings occur accidentally, and immediate first aid is crucial in a poisoning emergency. The most common type is food poisoning, and here are the symptoms and first aid treatments you should know.

What is Food Poisoning?

Also known as foodborne illness, food poisoning occurs when you consume foods or drinks contaminated with harmful bacteria that have multiplied, either from poor handling, improper cooking, or poor food storage. There are certain foods that are most likely to cause foodborne illness, such as fish products that are served raw, undercooked deli meats and ground beef, unpasteurized milk, cheese, and juice raw, and unwashed fruits and vegetables. 

Other things, such as parasites, toxins, chemicals, and viruses, can contaminate food during its processing or production. Still, these causes are much less common than contamination from bacteria. 

Who’s at Risk of Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning can occur to anyone after ingestion of contaminated food. The infection may occur when a person complains that the food they ate didn’t taste right, ate old food, improperly prepared, or if the food was left at room temperature for more than 4 hours. There may be no signs that food or water has been contaminated until the symptoms of food poisoning occur. People are more prone to foodborne illnesses than others, such as:

  • People with weakened immune systems
  • Diabetics
  • People with AIDS
  • People going through therapy for cancer
  • Pregnant women
food poisoning

What are the Common Symptoms of Food Poisoning?

If you have a foodborne illness, it won’t go undetected. However, symptoms can vary depending on the source of the infection. Most types of food poisoning cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Watery diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Mild fever
  • Weakness

Food poisoning symptoms that are potentially life-threatening include:

  • Diarrhea that lasts for more than three days
  • A fever higher than 102°F 
  • Difficulty seeing or speaking
  • Symptoms of severe dehydration
  • Bloody urine

You must immediately contact a doctor or seek medical treatment if you notice or experience these severe symptoms.

First Aid for Food Poisoning

If you think someone has food poisoning, do the following first aid procedure:

  1. Advise them to lie down. If they vomit, give them small sips of water to drink, which will help prevent dehydration.
  2. If they have accompanying diarrhea, replacing lost fluids and salts is vital. You can advise them to take an ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution) as directed on the packet from your local pharmacy.
  3. When they feel hungry, advise them to eat light, bland food easily digested, such as bread, rice, crackers, or a banana. 
  4. Do not drink caffeine, alcohol, or fizzy drinks.
  5. If the symptoms worsen and the vomiting and diarrhea persist, seek medical advice. 
  6. Do not take anti-diarrhea medicines unless specifically advised by a healthcare professional.
  7. Children with food poisoning should avoid dairy products and drink plenty of fluids.

When to call for help?

There are two ways to get help from food poisoning in the United States – the Emergency Medical Services team or the Poison Control Center. They are excellent resources for poisoning information and, in many situations, may advise that in-home observation is all that’s needed. You should Call 911 immediately if the victim of food poisoning is:

  • Drowsy, unconscious, or not breathing
  • Having seizures
  • Having difficulty breathing 
  • Uncontrollably restless or agitated
  • Known to have taken medications or any other substance overdosed.

If the person is stable and has no symptoms or if the person is going to be transported to the local emergency department, you should call the Poison Control Center. When speaking with the poison control center, be ready to describe the person’s symptoms, age, weight, other medications they are taking, and other information you have about the poison. It would be best to know the amount ingested and how long since the person was exposed to it. If possible, have the pill bottle, medication package, or other suspect containers on hand to refer to its label.

food poisoning

How to prevent Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning or foodborne illness can be prevented by following these general guidelines:

  • Freeze or refrigerate perishable foods within two hours of purchasing or preparing them.
  • Cook meats and eggs thoroughly before eating.
  • Wash kitchen utensils in hot, soapy water.
  • Use plastic cutting boards for cutting raw food.
  • Clean all surfaces and utensils that come into contact with uncooked meat or eggs.
  • Do not eat foods made from undercooked meat, eggs, or unpasteurized dairy products.
  • Wash raw vegetables and fruits entirely before eating.
  • Avoid cross-contamination of foods by keeping produce, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods separate from uncooked meats and raw eggs.
  • When buying food items, always check the expiration date. Don’t eat them after the expiry date on the label.
  • Do not eat raw or very lightly cooked ground beef, chicken, eggs, or fish.
  • Keep away from foods that have an unusual odor or spoiled taste.
  • When storing food in the refrigerator, keep raw food, such as raw meat and poultry, separate from cooked foods to prevent cross – contamination.
  • Wash your utensil thoroughly before and after cooking raw meat, seafood, poultry, or vegetables.
  • Don’t buy cracked, dented, or defective foods in jars or cans.
  • Use separate chopping boards for raw fruits and vegetables, meat products, and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Drink only fruit juices that have been pasteurized.

Key Takeaways

Food poisoning occurs when you consume foods or drinks contaminated with harmful bacteria that have multiplied, either from poor handling, improper cooking, or poor food storage. Symptoms of food poisoning may take time to develop. However, do not wait for symptoms to develop if you think someone has been poisoned. Instead, get medical help right away.

  • People with weak immune systems and pregnant women risk more severe side effects.
  • Severe dehydration can be fatal unless quickly treated because the organs of your body need a certain amount of fluid to function.
  • There are two ways to get help from food poisoning in the United States – the Emergency Medical Services team or the Poison Control Center. 
  • Enrolling in a Basic First Aid Class will teach you everything you need to know about poisoning treatment.