You tuck into a delicious chicken sandwich and within a few hours you start having such severe headaches and stomach cramps that you eventually have to spend the rest of your day camped in the toilet. If you are wondering what has happened to you, then in all probability, you are suffering from chicken food poisoning.
What is Chicken Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning is an illness that occurs from consuming foods that contain germs like bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, or other poisonous substances. There are nearly 250 different food-borne diseases, most of which are caused by microbes or pathogens that are food-borne. Edible animal products, raw food and unwashed vegetables can all contain germs or pathogens that cause food poisoning.
Meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and shellfish are the most common sources of food poisoning. In case of infants, elderly people, and those with a weak immune system, food poisoning can be a life-threatening problem.
Most food-borne diseases are caused by bacteria like Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, Listeria, and Botulinum. Of these, Campylobacter and Salmonella are two types of bacteria commonly found in raw chicken, red meat, pasteurized milk and untreated water. These bacteria dwell in the intestinal tracts of livestock, poultry, and other warm-blooded animals, and are hence considered to be the most dominant causes of chicken food or poultry food poisoning in humans.
Washing the Chicken
Though it may seem healthy to wash the chicken before cooking, there is a debate about the efficacy of doing this. Many believe that washing the chicken can lead to even more contamination as it helps in spreading the bacteria. Washing can spread the bacteria to other surfaces, including utensils and other food items.
Consuming Undercooked Chicken
Not cooking the chicken to the proper temperature and for the correct length of time leaves it undercooked. This is one of the most common causes of chicken food poisoning. Cooking the chicken for the right length of time ensures that all the bacteria are killed. Undercooked chicken is also referred to as 'tough' chicken.
Consuming Chicken Past Its Expiry
Chicken that has outlasted its expiry date may be contaminated and can cause food poisoning. Sometimes chicken can even get contaminated before its expiry date, if it is not stored properly.
Abdominal pain and discomfort can result from consuming raw or undercooked chicken. The intestines are affected due to the presence of the Salmonella bacteria. This causes indigestion, upset stomach, and various other complications. Contact your doctor if the pain gets severe, as it takes the body around a week to recover fully.
If food poisoning is caused by Salmonella, Shigella or Listeria, there is a good chance that the body will try to expel whatever has been consumed. This leads to vomiting, which is one of the most common symptoms of chicken food poisoning.
Fever is a common symptom if one is affected by chicken poisoning. The sudden rise in temperature occurs because the body is fighting the infection caused by the Salmonella, Shigella, Listeria or Campylobacter jejuni bacteria.
Another classic symptom of food poisoning is diarrhea. This happens due to the various infections of the stomach. When you suffer from diarrhea, it means that your body is getting rid of toxic substances. Seek medical assistance immediately if the diarrhea lasts more than 2 days.
With food poisoning, the affected individual finds it difficult to retain food and water in the body, due to vomiting and diarrhea. This leads to loss of water in the body, resulting in dehydration, which is another symptom of chicken food poisoning.
Fatigue and Headache
Due to the symptoms mentioned above, the person affected by chicken food poisoning can experience tiredness or dullness in the body. Headaches and weakness can also occur as symptoms.
Normal or mild cases can be treated at home by taking ample rest and avoiding solid food, especially in case one is experiencing vomiting and/or diarrhea. Plenty of fluids should be consumed to replace the electrolytes lost, thus staying hydrated.
Consumption of alcohol and drinks with caffeine should be strictly avoided. Adults and teens can have sugar drinks, but they need to make sure it is diluted, as sugar is known to worsen diarrhea. After being on a liquid diet for a week, solid food may be consumed.
Those affected with food poisoning should make sure that foods which are light on the stomach, like boiled rice, potatoes, and cereals, are consumed. Milk and milk products can also be consumed, though some people may experience stomach problems due to lactose intolerance. A doctor's opinion is always recommended in case of any doubt.
As clichéd as it may sound, washing your hands before and after handling the chicken is a must. Raw chicken contains bacteria that can easily be transmitted from your hands to other things that you touch. Cross contamination is one of the major causes of chicken food poisoning.
Avoid Washing Raw Chicken
Another way of preventing cross contamination is to avoid washing raw chicken, as it can do more harm than good in preventing bacterial infections. The juices from the raw chicken should never be allowed to run over other surfaces and utensils.
Avoid Eating Undercooked Chicken
As mentioned above, chicken should be cooked properly before consumption. You can use food thermometers to ensure that the chicken has been optimally cooked. These thermometers just need to be inserted into the flesh of the chicken that is being cooked. A whole chicken should be cooked until the temperature measured in the thigh is 180°F.
Ensure that the raw chicken has been properly defrosted before cooking it. The safest method to defrost the chicken is by using a refrigerator, even though this can be a slow process.
Chicken is packed with protein and a well-cooked chicken is a wonderful meal for your body. However, as with any other food item, carelessness in storage, preparation and hygiene can lead to illness. Now that you are armed with all the information about chicken food poisoning, you can rest assured that you will enjoy chicken to the fullest.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.