Food poisoning – what is it, symptoms, diagnosis and possible complications.

Food poisoning usually corresponds to an infection  caused from consummation of contaminated food and the infection is induced by viruses, bacteria, (but rarely by fungi), parasites and spoiled or infected foods ingestion. It may also be an intoxication caused by the ingestion of a toxic substance in food (or liquid).

Symptoms of food poisoning

After infection by a pathogen (disease vector), it usually happens between a few hours and a few days before the onset of the first signs. The time between infection and the onset of symptoms depends on the type of intoxication.

The first signs of food poisoning caused by viruses occur between 12 hours and two days later. Food poisoning caused by bacteria shows its signs a few hours up to 4 days after ingestion. Then the intoxication and poisoning is caused by the toxins released by the bacteria.

A food poisoning by a toxic product (chemical, for example) can be acute or chronic. The effects vary depending on the product ingested. In case of significant acute intoxication, sometimes the effects are almost immediate. This toxic substance may be present in fungi.

Typically, it starts with abdominal pain, cramping. Nausea or vomiting, headache, or dizziness, diarrhea, fever may accompany this highly uncomfortable condition.

In extreme cases, blurred vision, tremors and reversible paralysis (as botulinum toxin, for example) may also occur.

Diagnosing food poisoning

In general, the clinical signs are sufficient to make the diagnosis of food poisoning.

In case of doubt, severe symptoms, or food poisoning occurring in a particularly vulnerable person (baby, elderly …), take a quick medical advice. Only your doctor can eliminate a possible appendicitis that is often difficult to diagnose and which signs are similar to food poisoning. Depending on the severity, your doctor will propose an analysis of feces (stool), or a blood test.

If you eat several times a day, then  it can be difficult to determine with certainty the pathogen unless several people became ill after a common food. This is even more difficult to detect than the contamination by a virus, for example, which can be carried by hand to mouth …

In most cases, the evolution of the condition is spontaneously after 24 to 48 hours in the form of digestive disorders. It is not recommended to try to absolutely stop vomiting or diarrhea because germs are eliminated by these routes. However, if you are exhausted by these episodes, your doctor may prescribe anti-emetics (anti-vomiting) or anti-diarrheal medications.

After vomiting, you spontaneously put your digestive system to rest. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. If you find that you have a poor appetite, you can eat rice or starchy food. If you want something else, follow your instincts and eat, because even if you vomit it, there will always be some amount that will be absorbed.

It is usually difficult to diagnose chronic food poisoning caused by a toxin (such as lead, nitrates …). This requires making a strict dietary survey.

Complications of food poisoning

In people with a non-compromised immune system, complications are rare. Taken care in time, the symptoms of food poisoning can rapidly evolve towards a recovery. Some bacteria (the most common are: Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Clostridium, Campylobacter, Staphylococcus aureus, etc.) can become virulent and cause complications. Sometimes antibiotics are necessary after stool analysis.

In cases of serious complications, hospitalization may be necessary to treat food poisoning.

In infants and children, and the elderly, food poisoning should not be trivialized because dehydration can be very fast and very serious. And pregnant women, can be major complications.

In case of food poisoning, immunocompromised individuals are more susceptible.

Some precautions

salmonella bacteria

– Potentially dangerous germs and pathogens living on your fingers can become a serious risk for your health. In addition, other germs can be on your hands … Also wash your hands before cooking or eating. Rewash them whenever you do something else (open a package, answer the phone …).

– Keep the food products in refrigerator. Virulent bacteria like salmonella are sometimes rampant in meat, eggs, and in egg products. It takes great concentration of bacteria to develop salmonellosis. Be aware that concentration  and development of bacteria can happen, because the bacteria proliferate very rapidly at room temperature.

– Do not use the same towels to clean the worktop and wash your hands.

– Clean the worktop with bleach or hot water to kill germs.

– Do not consume food stored in cans that are swollen or left open, there is a risk of botulism.

– Consume dairy products purchased in safe places so as not to take the risk of listeriosis.

– The meat eaten raw or undercooked, can carry germs. Potentially harmless, meat can be dangerous in immunocompromised individuals.

– The raw fish (sushi) or seafood may contain viruses or toxins, if improperly cooked or stored improperly. Be sure of their safe for the health and proper origin. And best avoided when you are pregnant.

– Avoid drinking water that may be unsafe in some parts of the world.

– Do not eat any mushroom unless you are sure of its safety.

– Wash fruits and vegetables to eliminate as much toxins and pesticides possible. 

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