Food Poisoning - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating foods that have harmful organisms in them. These harmful germs can include bacteria, parasites, and viruses. They are mostly found in raw meat, chicken, fish, and eggs, but can spread to any type of food. They can also grow on food that is left out on counters or outdoors or is stored too long before you eat it. Sometimes food poisoning happens when people do not wash their hands before they touch food.
Food poisoning is a common, usually mild, but sometimes deadly illness. Typical symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea that occur suddenly (within 48 hours) after consuming a contaminated food or drink. Depending on the contaminant, fever and chills, bloody stools, dehydration, and nervous system damage may follow.
Bacteria cause food poisoning either by their sheer numbers or, more commonly, through the toxins they produce. When they are present in food, bacteria can reproduce very quickly as one bacterium becomes two, two becomes four, and so on. Some bacteria produce toxins when they multiply and, in many cases, it is these toxins that cause you to become ill, which can be some time after you ate the contaminated food. In other cases, the number of bacteria alone can cause food poisoning.
The symptoms from the most common types of food poisoning generally start within 2 to 6 hours of eating the food responsible. That time may be longer (even a number of days) or shorter, depending on the toxin or organism responsible for the food poisoning.
Food Poisoning Symptoms may include upset stomach, diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, headache, weakness, and dehydration. The symptoms may appear several hours to several days after ingesting contaminated food.
For diagnosis, the doctor reviews the symptoms, examines the patient and suggests laboratory testing of a sample of stools and the suspected food if available. A very important symptom for diagnosing it is that all the people who ate the same food get infected. In such cases, a careful analysis of food, to correlate symptoms to the food items consumed by those affected and those unaffected helps to pinpoint the most likely item which might have been infected.
Treatment for food poisoning typically depends on the source of the illness, if known, and the severity of your symptoms. For most people, the illness resolves without treatment within a few days, though some types of food poisoning may last a week or more.
Treatment is in the form of supportive care such as fluids and oxygen. H1 and H2 receptor (histamine receptors) blocking medications can also be given with some success.