Food poisoning is a common ailment that almost every one experiences in their lifetime, to various degrees. It is caused by eating food that has become contaminated with any number of infectious organisms.
These organisms may include various toxins, viruses, parasites and bacteria. There are many different forms of food poisoning. The symptoms and severity of the food poisoning may differ according to the type of infectious organism with which food was contaminated.
Causes of Food Contamination:
Food contamination usually occurs when food in incorrectly handled or incorrectly cooked, causing it to become more susceptible to contamination. The contamination can occur at any time during the production of the food, from farming, harvesting, transport, storing and preparation.
Symptoms of Food Poisoning:
The symptoms of food poisoning may be mild or very severe, depending on several factors including: the type of food contaminant, the amount of food/contaminant ingested, the extent to which the food was contaminated, the individual and the reaction of their immune system.
Symptoms can begin within hours, days and rarely within weeks of eating contaminated foods:
Common mild symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramps and abdominal pain
In most cases, symptoms usually dissipate within a few hours, or two days and need little to no medical attention. However, severe symptoms can lead to complications, especially in high-risk patients.
The following are considered severe symptoms and require immediate medical attention:
- Diarrhoea for more than three days
- Uncontrollable and excessive vomiting
- An oral temperature that exceeds 38.6 C
- Extreme abdominal cramps
- Bloody stools or vomit
- Symptoms of neurological damage, including, incoherent speech and behaviour, lack of physical coordination, tingling sensations in the limbs, especially the arms.
- Symptoms of dehydration, including lethargy, excessive thirst, little to no urination for more than a day.
Food poisoning can cause particular complications in certain people, including those who have pre-existing medical conditions
High-risk candidates include:
- Infants and young children: with underdeveloped immune symptoms which may not fight off infectious organisms as quickly
- Older people: with weakened immune systems
- Pregnant women: due to hormonal and metabolic changes in the body during pregnancy, food poisoning symptoms in pregnant women are often much more severe
- People with chronic conditions, which affect the immune system
Food Poisoning: A Common Travelling Hazard
People who are less accustomed to the type of food, preparation or additives are more prone to experiencing the symptoms of food poisoning than others are. For this reason, many travellers experience symptoms of food poisoning when visiting foreign places and eating exotic foods to which they are not accustomed (containing traces of certain bacteria and viruses for which they have not developed immunity towards).
What to do in the case of Mild Food Poisoning
The most common complication associated with food poisoning is dehydration. The excessive vomiting and diarrhoea are just the body’s ways of purging the contaminants out of the body. However, with this, comes the loss of fluids and electrolytes. It is therefore, essential to ensure these are replaced by drinking many fluids, especially those containing electrolytes. If symptoms progress to that of the severe category (as detailed above), you know to get a doctor ASAP!
Doctors-on-Call for Food Poisoning
Getting to a doctor’s office can be tricky when one has food poisoning, as it is difficult to get anywhere while suffering from symptoms like cramping, vomiting and diarrhoea. Luckily, Doctors-on-Call are able to tend to you and your food poisoning, wherever you are. Whether you become ill, at your home, your place of work or while on vacation, our doctors are able to treat you and organize hospitalization when needed.