The terms, 'food poisoning' and 'foodborne illness' mean one and same thing. They refer to any kind of medical problem that stems from consumption of contaminated food items and beverages. Hence, the root causes for food poisoning are pathogenic microbes, and not truly chemical or toxic substances. Various strains of bacteria are responsible for majority of the foodborne illnesses, while some are a result of attack by viruses, fungi and parasites. Accordingly, food poisoning onset time differs from one patient to another.
Duration for Food Poisoning to Manifest
Taking into consideration that harmful germs are present freely in the environment, it is difficult to prevent them from entering consumable foods. The high risk food items are fresh veggies, fruits, shrimp, fish, poultry products and meat. Chances of contacting pathogenic bacteria are more, if they are consumed raw or in undercooked forms. Also, children and elderly people having a weak immune system are more susceptible to food poisoning than healthy adults.
Severe pain in the stomach along with nausea and vomiting, manifested within 4-6 hours of eating contaminated vegetable salads or seafood are suspected signs of food poisoning. But, it is surprising to know that symptoms of foodborne illness are also experienced after 1 or several days of eating raw fish and meat. Very rarely, food poisoning onset time lasts for months or years. So, how long does it take for food poisoning to manifest physically? Well, the answer depends upon the amount of ingested contaminated food (or germs) and type of organism present in the edible item.
Bacteria or other pathogenic microbes after entering the body via foods get established in the digestive tract and then multiply rapidly to increase their population. They either produce toxins that cause adverse health effects, or attack the internal organs directly resulting in serious symptoms. Thus, onset of notable symptoms occurs some time after ingesting food. This lapse between ingestion of contaminated foods and manifestation of clinical signs is referred to as incubation period of food poisoning. The length of incubation period is useful to determine the casual organism behind foodborne illness.
In case, the food poisoning onset period is somewhere between 4-6 hours, Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus cereus are the suspected for causing foodborne illness. On the other hand, food poisoning incubation period is longer (about 12 hours to one day or more), if it is caused due to ingestion of Salmonella, Clostridium botulinum, C. perfringens and Vibrio parahaemolyticus bacteria. E. coli food poisoning takes approximately 3 days for appearance of notable signs.
Food Poisoning Symptoms and Treatment
The mild food poisoning symptoms remain nearly the same, irrespective of the bacterial strain that causes the condition (except for some cases). Typical signs of this temporary ailment are stomach upset, abdominal cramps, frequent bowel movement, vomiting, headache and running high temperature (indicating infection). An exceptional case is that of ingesting C. botulinum, which is accompanied by severe complications, such as blurred vision, difficulty in swallowing food, breathing abnormalities and at times, death.
In most instances, symptoms of foodborne illness subside on their own within a few days, while for some, the disease may persist for as long as 10 days. Patients who experience food poisoning symptoms for 3 consecutive days should seek medical advice. Treatment for the same is focused on managing the discomfort problems, while the body's immune system fights against the pathogens. Keeping oneself hydrated by drinking lots of healthy fluids is a prompt treatment approach. If required, antibiotics will be recommended to treat bacterial food poisoning cases.
Every year, lots of people die because of foodborne illnesses. Hence, it is always better to prevent it from occurring rather than treating the discomfort symptoms later. Eating any kind of rotten food, be it cooked dish or raw vegetable, is strictly not recommended. Maintaining hygiene at the time of food handling, cooking, consumption and storing are the basic tips to avoid foodborne illnesses.