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Food Poisoning : Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Food Poisoning : Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

by Zahra Ijaz · February 11, 2022

Do you know that Food Poisoning or foodborne illness can be due to a number of reasons?
Some of the major causes are bacteria, parasites, or viruses, however, food contamination can also be the cause of food poisoning.
Moreover, in most cases, you can treat it at home, however, you may need medical treatment in case of severe symptoms.
Keep on reading.

1.

Food Poisoning: Symptoms and Risk Factors

Food poisoning often occurs due to infectious organisms, however, their toxins can also contaminate the food at any point of processing or production.
Moreover, contamination can also occur at home, if you do not handle or cook the food correctly.
The symptoms often start within hours of eating the contaminated food.
Let’s learn more about them in detail.

food poisoning 1

One of the most common symptoms of food poisoning is nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Though it is quite uncomfortable, food poisoning is not unusual.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, about 48 million people in the United States or 1 out of 7 people contract some form of food poisoning every year.

Moreover, of these 48 million people, about 128,000 are hospitalized.

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Symptoms of Food Poisoning

If you experience food poisoning, chances are it will not go undetected.

Symptoms, however, can vary depending on the source of infection.

Abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, mild fever, weakness, and headache.

These are the common causes of food poisoning.

symptoms

However, symptoms that can be potentially life-threatening are:

  • diarrhea that lasts for more than 3 days
  • difficulty seeing or speaking
  • symptoms of severe dehydration and can also include dry mouth, passing little to no urine, difficulty keeping the fluids down
  • bloody urine
  • a fever higher than 103 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.9°C

Moreover, if you experience any of the above symptoms, make sure to seek medical advice or seek medical treatment immediately.

How long Does Food Poisoning Last?
The time it takes for the symptoms of food poisoning to appear depends on the source of the infections.
However, it can range from as little as 30 minutes to as long as 8 weeks.

With or without treatment, mostly it resolves within a week.

Risk Factors for Food Poisoning

Anyone can experience food poisoning.

However, statistically speaking, nearly everyone will come down with food poisoning at least once in their life.

There are certain populations that are at more risk for food poisoning than others.

These are as follows:
Immunocompromised People If you have a suppressed immune system or have an autoimmune disease, then you have a greater risk of infection and complications that results from food poisoning.

Pregnant People If you are conceiving, then you are at a greater risk.

This is because your body is coping with the changes to metabolism and circulatory system during pregnancy.

Older Adults Adults whose age is 65 years or older often face a greater risk of contracting food poisoning.

This is because their immune systems may not respond to infectious organisms quickly.

Young Children Children under 5 years of age are also considered an at-risk population because their immune systems as not as developed as those of adults.

Moreover, young children are more easily affected by dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea.

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2.

Food Poisoning: Causes

The most common causes of food poisoning can be traced to one of the three major causes.

These are bacteria, parasites, or viruses.
Moreover, in some cases, these may interact with your body to cause food poisoning, however, it can also occur due to contamination of the food.
Let’s learn more about it in detail.

food poisoning, causes

Other Bacteria, parasites, or viruses can cause food poisoning.

These pathogens are found in almost all of the foods you eat.

However, heat while cooking food often kills pathogens on the food before it reaches your plate.

When you eat raw food, these are often the common sources of food poisoning as they do not go through the cooking process.

Occasionally, food also comes in contact with the organisms in fecal matter or vomit.

This is most likely to occur when an ill person prepares food and does not wash their hands before cooking.

Moreover, meat, eggs, and dairy products are frequently contaminated.

Furthermore, water may also be contaminated with organisms that cause illness.

Let’s learn more about the causes of food poisoning in detail.

Bacteria causing Food Poisoning

So far, bacteria are the most common cause of food poisoning.

Certain types of bacteria that cause food poisoning are:

  • E. coli in particular Shiga Toxin producing E.coli or STEC
  • listeria monocytogenes
  • Salmonella
  • Campylobacter
  • Clostridium botulinum
  • Shigella
  • Vibrio Vulnificus

food poisoning, bacterial causes

When thinking about dangerous bacteria, names like E Coli and Salmonella come to mind for good reason.

Moreover, one of the biggest causes of food poisoning is Salmonella in the United States.

According to CDC, about 1,350,000 cases of food poisoning occurs due to this type of bacteria, and 26,500 of them are hospitalizations.

On the other hand, Campylobacter and C. Botulimun are low lesser-known, and potentially lethal bacteria that can cause food contamination.

Parasites causing Food Poisoning

One of the important things to note is that food poisoning that occurs due to parasites is not as common as due to bacteria.

However, parasites that spread through foods are still very dangerous.

Toxoplasma gondii, Giardia lamblia, and various types of types worms can cause food poisoning.

Tapeworms like Taemia saginate or beef tapeworm, taenia solium, i.e. pork tapeworm, and Diphyllobothrium latum, i.e. fish tapeworm are the causes of food poisoning.

parasites

Moreover, Cryptosporidium, Ascaris Lumbricoides, a round tapeworm, flukes i.e. flatworms, like Opisthorchiidae, i.e. liver fluke.

Furthermore, Paragonimus i.e. lung fluke, pinworms or Enterobiasis, and Trichinella are other parasites.

According to CDC, toxoplasmosis is one of the leading causes of death attributed to food poisoning in the United States.

Toxoplasma gondii is also found in cat litter boxes.

Furthermore, parasites can live in your digestive tract and often go undetected for years.

If you have a weak immune system or are pregnant, then you are at more risk of serious side effects if certain parasites take up residence in your intestines.

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Viruses causing Food poisoning

Food poisoning can also occur due to viruses.

These are norovirus which is also sometimes known as Norwalk Virus,

Rotavirus, astrovius, sapovirus, and hepatitis A virus.

virus

Moreover, it is important to note that norovirus causes about 19 to 21 million cases of vomiting and diarrhea in the United States every year.

However, in rare cases, it can also be fatal.

Other viruses bring on similar symptoms but are less common.

Furthermore, the viruses that cause certain liver conditions like hepatitis A can also transmit through the food you eat.

Common Sources of Food Poisoning

The table below shows the common food sources of food poisoning:

Cause of food poisoningHow soon symptoms start (after exposure)Where it’s found
Ascaris lumbricoidesRarely causes noticeable symptomsProduce grown in contaminated soil
Astrovirus4–5 daysContaminated water
Campylobacter2–5 daysRaw or undercooked chicken, unpasteurized milk, contaminated water
Clostridium botulinum18–36 hoursPreserved vegetables that are low in acid (like green beans and mushrooms), canned tuna, fermented fish, ham, sausage, pruno (“prison wine”), items that have been improperly canned or bottled at home
Cryptosporidium2–10 days (7 days on average)Fresh fruits, fruit juice, fresh vegetables, unpasteurized apple cider, unpasteurized milk, contaminated water
Diphyllobothrium latum (fish tapeworm)Rarely causes noticeable symptomsRaw or undercooked fish
E. coli3–4 daysRaw or undercooked beef, raw lettuce and other vegetables, raw sprouts, unpasteurized milk, contaminated water
Enterobiasis (pinworms)Rarely causes noticeable symptomsMostly transmitted by touching a contaminated surface or through close contact with a person who has a case, but can also be caused by improper food handling
Giardia lamblia1–2 weeksProduce grown in contaminated soil, contaminated meat, contaminated water

Can also be caused by improper food handling

Hepatitis A virus15–50 daysFrozen berries, frozen vegetables, undercooked shellfish, contaminated water

Can also be caused by improper food handling

Listeria monocytogenes1–4 weeksUnpasteurized dairy (like milk and soft cheeses), melon, raw sprouts, deli meat, smoked fish
Norovirus1–2 daysOysters and other shellfish, lettuce and other leafy greens, fresh fruit, contaminated water

Can also be caused by improper food handling

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Other Sources

Some other sources are:

Opisthorchiidae (liver fluke)Rarely causes noticeable symptomsRaw or undercooked crab, crawfish, or fish
Paragonimus (lung fluke)2–15 daysRaw, undercooked, pickled, or salted crab or crawfish
Rotavirus1–2 daysShellfish, salads, contaminated ice
Salmonella6 hours–6 daysRaw or undercooked poultry, eggs, raw fruits and vegetables, contaminated water
Sapovirus1–3 daysOysters, clams, contaminated water
ShigellaUsually 1–2 days (but can take up to 7 days)Raw vegetables, cold salads like tuna salad and potato salad, sandwiches, contaminated water

Can also be caused by improper food handling

Staphylococcus aureus30 minutes–8 hoursPuddings, cream-filled baked goods, sliced meats, cold salads like tuna salad and potato salad, sandwiches

Can also be caused by improper food handling or leaving foods at improper temperatures

Taenia saginata (beef tapeworm)Rarely causes noticeable symptomsRaw or undercooked beef
Taenia solium (pork tapeworm)Rarely causes noticeable symptomsRaw or undercooked pork
Toxoplasma gondiiRarely causes noticeable symptomsUndercooked shellfish or meat (specifically pork, lamb, and venison), contaminated water

Mostly transmitted through contact with infected cat feces, but can also be caused by improper food handling or preparation

Trichinella1–2 days for abdominal symptoms and 2–8 weeks for other symptomsRaw or undercooked meat, specifically pork and wild game
Vibrio vulnificus2–48 hoursRaw or undercooked shellfish, especially oysters

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3.

Treatment, Prevention, and More

In most cases, you can treat food poisoning at home and do not need any medical intervention. However, in severe cases, you will need to visit your doctor so that they can diagnose the cause of food poisoning and treat you accordingly.

Moreover, the help of certain treatment options like hydration, enough rest, and OTC medications can help relieve it. But in some cases, you will need Prescription Medications to treat food poisoning to treat the underlying cause of it.
Let’s learn more about it in detail.

eye twitching diagnosis

Treating Options

The following are the ways you can treat food poisoning at home:

Stay hydrated In case of food poisoning, it is important to hydrate properly.

Sports drinks that are high in electrolytes can be helpful.

Moreover, fruit juices and coconut water can help to restore carbohydrates and help with fatigue.

However, make sure to avoid caffeine which can irritate your digestive tract. Decaffeinated tea with soothing herbs can help to calm the upset stomach.

These include chamomile, peppermint, and dandelion tea.

OCT medications Over-the-counter, OTC medications like loperamide, Imodium, and Pepto-Bismol can help to manage diarrhea and suppress nausea.

However, make sure to check with your doctor before using these medications.

This is because your body uses diarrhea and vomiting to get rid of toxins in your system.

food poisoning 3

Additionally, using these medications can also mask the severity of illness and cause you to delay seeking expert treatment.

Pyrantel pamoate or Reese’s Pinworm medication is one of the common remedies for pinworms.

Receive an Antotoxin An infection with C. botulinum is a medical emergency, and you should seek medical care as soon as possible.

In case of this, your doctor will administer an antitoxin.

Babies often receive a special antitoxin: BabyBIG or Botulism immune globulin.

Rest An important thing to note is if you have food poisoning, then you should take enough rest.

Severe Cases If you have a severe case of food poisoning, then you may need hydration with intravenous i.e. IV fluid at a hospital.

In worst cases, however, you may need a longer stay at the hospital while you recover.

People with severe cases of C. botulinum are but may require mechanical ventilation.

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Prescription Medications

Though many cases of food poisoning clear up on their own, some people may benefit from prescription medications.

It often depends on the pathogen responsible for the illness.

Moreover, prescription medications may benefit if you are older, immunocompromised, or pregnant.

However, if you are conceiving, antibiotic treatment can help prevent an infection from the transmission to your unborn baby.

Furthermore, if you need prescription medications, your doctor may recommend the following regimens for the following cases of illness:

A. Lumbricoides An antiseptic medications albendazole, Albenza, or mebendazole, Enverm.

Campylobacter Antibiotic azithromycin or Zithromax.

Cryptosporidium Antiparasitic medication praziquantel or Biltricide.

Enterobiasis or Pinworms Albendazole, Albenxa or Mebendazole or Enverm.

G. Lamblia For this you will need:

  • nitazoxanide ot Alinia
  • an antibiotic metronidazole or Flagyl, praomomycin, quinacrine, or furazolidone
  • tinidazole, i.e. Tindamix, which is an antibiotic and antiparasitic medication

L. Monocytogenes Ampicillin, which is an antibiotic.

Paragonimus or Lung Fluke Praziquantel, antiseptic medciation triclabendazole, Egaten.

Opisthorchiidae or Liver Fluke Praziquantel, Biltricide or albendazole, Albenza.

Shigella The antibiotics azithromycin, Zithromax, ciprofloxacin, or Cipro.

T. saginata, or Beef Tapeworm Biltricide, praziquantel, or albendazole Albenza which are off-label treatments for T. saginata.

Pork Tapeworm or T. Solium Off-label treatments are praziquantel, Biltricide, or albendazole, Albenza.

T. Gondii Medications for this one are:

  • a combination of the antiparasitic medication pyrimethamine, Daraprim, and an antibiotic like sulfadiazine
  • antibiotics spiramycin as a standalone medication

Trichinella Mebendazole, Enverm, or albendazole, Albenza.

Diet when you have Food Poisoning

According to many doctors and health care professionals, it is best to gradually hold off on solid foods until diarrhea and vomiting pass away.

Instead, you can ease back o your regular diet or drink simple-to-digest items that are bland and low in fat.

These are saltine crackers, toast, gelatin, bananas, rice, oatmeal, and bland potatoes.

Moreover, boiled vegetables, chicken broth, soda without caffeine like ginger ale or root beer, diluted fruit juices, sports drinks, are good food choices.

diet

Foods to Avoid
In order to prevent your stomach from getting more upset, you will need to avoid har-to-digest foods.

However, even if you feel better, make sure to avoid the following:

  • dairy products particularly milk and cheeses
  • sugary foods
  • spicy foods
  • fatty foods
  • highly seasoned foods
  • fried food items

Moreover, make sure to avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine.

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When do you need a Diagnosis?

Your doctor may be able to diagnose the type of food poisoning and it often depends on the symptoms you are experiencing.

However, in severe cases, blood tests, stool tests, and tests on foods that you may have consumed may be conducted.

This will help your doctor to find what is responsible for your food poisoning.

Moreover, they may also use a urine test to evaluate whether you have dehydration as a result of food poisoning.

Prevention Tips

One of the best ways to prevent food poisoning is to handle your food safely and avoid any food that might be unsafe.

It is important to note that some foods are more likely to cause food poisoning because of their way of production and preparation.

Moreover, infectious ingredients that cooking or excess heat kills may also be present in certain foods.

These can be meat, poultry, eggs, and shellfish.

prevention

It can also occur if you eat these foods in raw form and do not cook them properly.

Or if you do not clean your hands and surfaces after contact.

Some of the other foods that are most likely to cause food poisoning are:

Sushi and other fish products that you either eat raw or undercook.

Moreover, deli meats and hot dogs that you do not heat or cook.

Furthermore, ground beef may contain meat from different animals, unpasteurized milk, cheese, and juice.

Raw and unwashed fruits and vegetables.

Moreover, in order to avoid food poisoning, you can:

  • wash your hands before cooking or eating food
  • thoroughly cook meat and eggs
  •  always wash fruits and vegetables before serving them
  • make sure to properly seal and store the food
  • sanitize anything that comes in contact with raw products before using it to prepare other foods

Final Outlook

Food poisoning can occur due to a number of reasons, however, it is rarely life-threatening.
Moreover, while having food poisoning is quite uncomfortable, the good news is that you will recover completely within a few days, even without treatment.

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