Contributed by: Healthians Team
Summer is here and with rising temperature, the chances of food poisoning increase.
One of the biggest reasons is that the warm and humid weather provides a fertile environment for the growth of harmful pathogens — including bacteria, viruses and parasites — or their toxins to flourish.
In addition to warmer temperatures, the lack of food safety controls while preparing food further increases the risk of food contamination.
That makes outdoor foods made without the proper variables especially troublesome.
So it is important to be extra cautious during the summertime than any other season of the year.
What is food poisoning?
In a nutshell, food poisoning is a broad term for illnesses that are caused by the consumption of food that is contaminated with bacteria, viruses or parasites.
Foods that are commonly associated as carriers of disease-causing microbes are chicken, raw meat, food sold in the open by roadside vendors, sun-pasteurized milk and untreated water.
What are the telltale signs of food poisoning?
The onset of foodborne illness symptoms may manifest themselves within a range of hours, days or even weeks after eating the contaminated food. Symptoms are characterized by:
- Abdominal cramps
- Stomach pain
- Feelings of malaise and tiredness
What steps should I take to flush out food poisoning?
The treatment for food poisoning will depend on factors such as your symptoms, age, and your general health.
While most cases get better within a week without any treatment, many instances of food poisoning can be very dangerous, especially for the elderly, pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems and those going on chemotherapy or radiation.
If food poisoning is intense, you may need specialized medical interventions that include:
- Replacement of lost fluids: Your body’s balance of fluids and electrolytes — minerals such as sodium, potassium and calcium that maintain the balance of fluids in your body — can be critically lost to persistent diarrhoea and vomiting. This may call for hospitalization, receiving salts and fluids intravenously, and preventing or treating dehydration.
- Antibiotics: To treat food poisoning caused by bacteria or parasites, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics and/or give IV fluids to rehydrate your body.
Lifestyle and home remedies
In many cases, people that contract food poisoning will show only very mild symptoms which can be resolved and treated at home without treatment. To prevent dehydration while you recover, try the following:
- Stop eating and drinking for the first few hours after the onset of symptoms and let your stomach settle down.
- After an episode of food poisoning, reintroduce food gradually with small quantities of bland, non-fatty foods and hydrating beverages.
- Drink water, broth, sports drink or an oral rehydration solution to replace the minerals that you lose with vomiting and diarrhoea. Suck on ice chips to ease mild dehydration.
- Eat some fermented foods like yoghurt to replace the beneficial gut bacteria lost during the illness.
- You can recover from food-borne illness with foods and supplements containing probiotics or healthy bacteria.
- Gradually begin to eat bland, low-fat, easy-to-digest foods, such as apples, toast, bananas and rice that are easy to digest.
- Stay away from certain foods and substances like dairy, caffeine, alcohol, bubbly or fizzy drinks, and fatty or highly seasoned foods — they can irritate the stomach and worsen diarrhoea-related symptoms.
- A lack of fluids in the body can weaken and tire you, and sometimes even cause irregular heartbeats. So get adequate rest to help your body heal from food poisoning.
- According to some experts, taking over-the-counter drugs may help you recuperate faster. Other doctors, however, believe that it is better to let the sickness take its course rather than try to stop nausea and diarrhoea using over-the-counter medications. Tempting as it may be, avoid over-the-counter medicine to stop your diarrhoea.
Food poisoning is an unpleasant ailment that should resolve within a few days.
You should consult a doctor if you have severe symptoms, such as bloody stool, dizziness, muscle weakness, and severe stomach cramping.
Your doctor will perform a physical exam, look for signs of dehydration and advice on diagnostic tests, such as a blood test, stool culture or examination for parasites, to identify the cause and confirm the diagnosis.
If you experience any of the symptoms no matter how mild, it’s best to go for a stomach test, which can help determine the presence of food poisoning in its infancy, thus, ensuring timely medical intervention and quick recovery.