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Food Poisoning Symptoms

Food Poisoning Symptoms

Food poisoning occurs when a person consumes food items or beverages that are contaminated. Following certain precautionary measures can help lower the risk of food poisoning. This HealthHearty write-up lists out the symptoms of food poisoning.
Kevin Mathias
A food-borne condition, food poisoning occurs when we eat or drink anything that contains toxins, chemicals, or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc. More often than not, this condition occurs due to the consumption of food items, beverages, or water that is contaminated by bacteria. Some of the bacteria that are commonly responsible for causing this food-borne illness include Salmonella, Campylobacter jejuni, Shigella, Staphylococcus aureus, Vibrio cholera, and Escherichia coli. This condition can be diagnosed, if one is aware about the symptoms of food poisoning. The following sections list out the symptoms, contributing factors, and preventive measures of this food-borne illness.

Food poisoning will usually occur within a few minutes to about 8 hours after you have ingested the contaminated food. The symptoms could include one or more of the following:
➻ Abdominal cramps
➻ Nausea
➻ Vomiting
➻ Sudden and severe diarrhea
➻ Sudden unexplained fever usually accompanied by other symptoms
➻ Aching muscles
➻ Unexplained fatigue
➻ Severe headache
If the food poisoning is caused by a chemical or toxin, the onset of the symptoms will be faster, in comparison to food poisoning that is caused by a bacterium or virus.
Contributing Factors

Home-cooked food, or raw fruits or vegetables that are eaten at home should not be a cause of worry, as long as they have been washed and cooked properly. Even processed canned foods that have been opened will not cause problems, as long as they are kept at the right temperature. You should be really careful while consuming street food, or food served at food joints, social gatherings, or anywhere outside the house where the food could get contaminated. The reason why food might get contaminated include improper handling of the food, the use of unclean utensils for cooking, not cooking the food properly, keeping the food in the open for long periods, or not storing the food properly. Under such circumstances, bacteria and viruses could enter the food and multiply.
Foods Most Likely to Cause Food Poisoning

It is practically impossible to tell the difference between normal and contaminated food. Both will look the same, smell the same, and taste the same. Foodstuffs that are more likely to get contaminated by pathogens include:
➻ Meat (beef, mutton/lamb, pork, etc.)
➻ Poultry (chicken, duck, wild game, etc.)
➻ Dairy products (unpasteurized milk, cheeses that were not treated properly, etc.)
➻ Fish (Ciguatera, Scombroid, and shellfish)
Besides these, other sources include fresh fruit and vegetables (unwashed and eaten raw), and processed foods that have not been stored at the required temperature.
Who is at Maximum Risk?

Food poisoning is fairly common and can affect anyone, but the level is usually so mild that it goes unnoticed. At times, mild symptoms are experienced, as the immune system responds quickly. However, the symptoms could be severe, if contaminated food is consumed by an infant or an elderly person whose immune system is weak. In such cases, even the slightest bacterial contamination could make them sick. Infants, seniors, and individuals with kidney problems or diabetes should be very careful of what they eat. Also, pregnant women and nursing mothers should eat ensure that they eat food that has been washed and cooked properly. Don't eat a particular food item in case of even the slightest of doubt.
Preventive Measures

In order to avoid food poisoning, you should follow the measures given below:
➻ Cook all meat, fish, and poultry products thoroughly.
➻ After handling raw meat, fish, and poultry, always wash your hands with soap and dry them before you touch any other food item. Also, wash the kitchenware that was used while handling the raw meat.
➻ Do not cook and keep food without refrigeration for too long. Cook your food just prior to eating it.
➻ If collecting mushrooms from the wild yourselves, please make sure you can correctly identify the mushroom variety. Some of the varieties are poisonous. So, avoid collecting and eating wild mushrooms, unless you have the ability to identify poisonous mushrooms. If you cannot identify these mushrooms, you can buy packaged mushrooms from the supermarket; they are the edible variety and always safe to eat.
➻ While eating canned food, never open a can that is dented or bulging. Bulging cans are a sure sign of bacteria infestation.
➻ Never eat food that smells or tastes even slightly unpleasant. It could a sign of bacterial infestation.
➻While at an unknown place, always eat freshly cooked hot food.
➻ Before eating raw fruits and vegetables, wash them thoroughly.
➻ Be careful while drinking water at unknown places. Drink boiled or bottled water as far as possible.
➻ Consume shellfish that has been cooked thoroughly. Consuming undercooked shellfish is one of the leading causes of food poisoning.
Consult a doctor at the earliest, if you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms. If left untreated, it could lead to complications that require hospitalization. Since prevention is always better than cure, maintain proper hygiene while handling, cooking, and storing food.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.