This Is Everything You Need To Know About Food Poisoning And How To Avoid It
Anyone can be a victim of food poisoning.
A few years ago, there was a chicken scare and everyone stopped buying chickens until it was deemed safe again for consumption. Food poisoning victims, however, won't be alerted. Instead, they'll just get sick soon after eating something that is contaminated or has gone bad. That's why it can affect anyone, young and old, rich and poor.
No one should have to suffer through a bout of food poisoning so to help you avoid being a victim, we asked medical professionals about what you should know and what you can do about food poisoning:
What is food poisoning?
Food poisoning is the result of someone consuming or eating food that contains harmful bacteria, viruses, chemicals, or parasites.
What are the symptoms of food poisoning?
According to pediatrician Maria Rita Angela B. Salvador, MD, DPPS, symptoms vary from person to person and according to how much of the contaminated food was eaten.
What are these symptoms? She says, "Most food poisoning incidents may manifest with one or more of the following: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea (watery or bloody), abdominal pain, abdominal cramps, and fever."
She also says, "These happen within an hour from ingesting the contaminated food and can last from a few hours to several days."
Dr. Michelle Simbol-Cloa, president of the Philippine Society of Digestive Endoscopy, adds, "It usually lasts 24 to 48 hours (1 to 2 days) to maybe around 72 hours max (3 days)."
What can you do if you get sick after eating something?
Dr. Simbol-Cloa recommends that you have to take lots of fluids because if you're vomiting and have diarrhea, you're losing fluids which lead to dehydration which is also bad. She clarifies that this is the course of action if you are able to eat and drink. She advises that you try to replace the fluids being lost by drinking water or even by drinking sports drinks.
"But if you're vomiting a lot, then you have to arrest the vomiting, so we give medicine to prevent that first."
She cautions that despite the symptoms of food poisoning, dehydration is just as bad which is why restoring lost fluids is important for anyone who gets food poisoning. "It's a bad sign if you're dehydrated. These are the patients that need to be hospitalized and given an IV for hydration."
How do you treat food poisoning?
Dr. Simbol-Cloa says that viral infections that lead to the usual food poisoning are "very self-limiting". This means that it limits or resolves itself. "We don't even have to give antibiotics or anything, and they will be well," says Dr. Cloa.
"For example, they ate pancit or spaghetti, and they come into the clinic with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Sometimes they complain about abdominal cramps. But you see, after a day, these people are already better, and as the day progresses, they become well."
So, if doctors don't do anything, what do they do? Doctors don't go after the organism that caused it anymore since it will pass with time. Instead, they address the symptoms that made the person sick.
"We have to support it with hydration, and then treat the symptoms. If there is diarrhea, then sometimes we can give medicine to stop it or we give an oral hydration solution to prevent dehydration. We then advise the patient not to drink alcohol or eat anything that's spicy or any food that can irritate the intestine some more, like coffee or chocolate."
If it's a child who is sick, the treatment is the same, and Dr. Simbol-Cloa says, "If the mother is able to offer the baby or child water or hydration and is able to eat, then that child will be fine." If however, the child cannot drink anything to help prevent dehydration, only then should the child need to be hospitalized.
How do you prevent food poisoning?
You don't have to be a victim of food poisoning. In fact, you can do many things to avoid getting sick whether you're dining out or just eating at home.
However, many people have become complacent in their kitchen and food preparation tasks, and this is where food-safety issues begin. Here are all the food safety tips you need to know so you can be food safe wherever you are:
1 Organize your refrigerator.
The basic thinking is this: top shelves should only store food that requires little to no cooking so it won't get contaminated with raw food that should be on the bottom shelves. Every piece of raw food should be on a plate or tray to catch and prevent spills and drips and prevent cross contamination.
Here's how the pros organize their refrigerators (from top to bottom) to food safety standards:
- 1 Cooked food
- 2 Fruits and vegetables
- 3 Raw fish and seafood
- 4 Raw beef and pork
- 5 Raw ground meat
- 6 Raw chicken
2 Clean as you go.
You should wash your hands before, after, and while handling and eating food. Treat and then cover wounds and cuts to prevent contamination as well as an infection. Wipe down, wash and sanitize surfaces and equipment you just used; and keep pests out. Better yet, don't just clean; sanitize and do it regularly.
To disinfect kitchen surfaces and food prep equipment properly, sanitize with a disinfecting solution. To make your own, mix 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach (Psst! It's safe for food!) per 4 cups water. Pour into a spray bottle and spray it everywhere: the kitchen counter, the cutting boards and cleaned kitchen rags, and even the wall around your stove and the sink. Then leave to dry. You can also use white vinegar, and use, undiluted, as your sanitizing solution. Let sit for at least 10 minutes.
4 Use separate cutting boards.
Prevent cross contamination, and use one designated specifically for chicken, one for other raw meats, one for cooked meats, and another one for fruits and vegetables. Want to go pro? Use this color-coded list:
- yellow = raw poultry (chicken, poultry, etc.)
- blue = raw fish and seafood
- green = fruits and vegetables
- red = raw meats (beef, pork, etc.)
- white (sometimes brown) = cooked meats, general purpose
5 Cook meat properly: use a thermometer.
Food safety standards state that the temperature danger zone is from 40 degrees F (6 degrees C) to 140 degrees F (60 degrees C), so most meats are best cooked until its internal temperature reaches at least 145 degrees F with the exception of poultry (chicken, especially) whose internal temperature needs to reach at least 165 degrees F to kill off bacteria like salmonella. Only a meat thermometer can get the most accurate reading as well as perfectly cooked meat every time.
6 Store food at safe temperatures.
Food left at room temperature for more than 4 hours need to be heated up to safe temperatures again. This also means keeping cold dishes and other perishables in the refrigerator (at or below 4 degrees C/40 degrees F) and thawing frozen food in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter.
Whether you're preparing your own food or are dining out, it's always a good idea to stay safe and protect your health. With this information and all the useful tips here, you don't have to ever get sick after eating something delicious.