Do you know how to recognize the symptoms of food poisoning? Learn all about it, how to overcome the consequences most easily and prevent the occurrence of this problem.
Food poisoning can ruin your enjoyment of nature and barbecue, in the most literal sense. This is a problem that occurs much more often during the summer, although it is possible that you get food poisoning during the winter as well.
The reason for this lies primarily in the temperature, which is significantly higher during the summer than during the winter. Just like it pleases us, it pleases bacteria and viruses and affects their growth and development.
Especially when you are out in nature and there are no conditions for washing hands and groceries like at home – it is a paradise for bacteria and ideal conditions for their multiplication.
Why does food poisoning occur?
In some cases, this is due to certain toxic substances found in some foods. This is the case, for example, when you eat a poisonous mushroom. In most cases, the cause is its improper use or storage of food in conditions that affect the development of bacteria.
Food can be infected during shopping, picking, preparation, transport, storage. One of the very common causes is the transfer of bacteria from one surface to another, in this case food.
This happens, for example, when you cut meat or other food on a dirty cutting board, when you prepare it with dirty hands or using insufficiently clean utensils.
Foodborne infections most often occur when we eat fresh foods that are immediately ready for use, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
Heat-treated food is less dangerous because the temperature kills pathogenic germs – provided you eat it with clean cutlery, clean hands and immediately after preparation.
The most common causes of food poisoning are:
Bacteria – among the most famous and widespread are salmonella, Escherichia coli, listeria and clostridia.
Viruses – this group includes all those so-called stomach viruses, including norovirus or rotavirus.
Cooking kills bacteria and viruses. But when it is summer and when there is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh salads and an abundance of fruits begin to dominate our menu, food poisoning has a greater potential.
Take watermelon for example. They are a great summer refreshment and can help you lose weight in many ways.
- One means consuming them as much as possible, such as in a watermelon diet.
- The other is the one that will help you become infected with a bacterium and get sick, thus reducing your appetite.
Although we eat the inside of the watermelon, bacteria and impurities are found outside. Therefore, before cutting it, it is desirable to wash its rind well, and only then cut it. With a clean knife, of course.
What many of us do is ask the seller to cut a piece of watermelon for us to see if it is ripe. Here is a paradise for bacteria! The liquid from the watermelon remains on the knife, the temperature affects the development of bacteria, and it is unlikely that the street watermelon seller will wash the knife after each use.
Some foods are more susceptible to bacterial contamination, and this group includes the following foods:
- raw and insufficiently heat-treated meat
- raw eggs and fish
- raw or unpasteurized milk
Bacteria need to have certain conditions for development. High humidity and temperature up to 63 degrees C (145 degrees F) are the most favourable.
All foods that meet these requirements and are not stored in the refrigerator can lead to food poisoning. This includes ketchup, mayonnaise, various toppings, salads and afternoon lunch left at room temperature for several hours.
You can find the sources of the infection at every step. It is enough to be reckless.
What are the symptoms of food poisoning?
The symptoms of this disease may not immediately ruin your picnic, except that food that is not of the appropriate quality can have a bad smell and taste and reduce your enjoyment of it. It mostly depends on how long you have been on a picnic after consuming bacteriologically defective food.
The first symptoms will appear after a few hours, but they can also appear much later – after a few days or weeks.
You can expect the following discomforts:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Lack of appetite
The symptoms of food poisoning can last for several days and will completely exhaust you. It is usually 3-5 days, but it also depends on your immune system.
Can food poisoning be dangerous?
Yes, in some cases.
What happens most often is dehydration. When bacteria from the food spice up your picnic, chances are high that you will lose a lot of body liquids due to frequent vomiting and diarrhea.
That is why it is very important to make up for lost liquid and drink enough water. Besides liquids, the body also loses salts and minerals in this way. It seems easy to drink plenty of liquids and make up for salt by consuming lukewarm soup.
But when you have no appetite and when you are weak, water can also cause the urge to vomit, which can easily lead you into a vicious circle of dehydration.
Escherichia coli is one of the bacteria responsible for food poisoning. It can also cause chaos in the body. It can damage the layer of blood vessels in the kidneys, which can lead to disruption of their work and even to the failure of their function.
Salmonella is a type of bacterium that is the most common cause of this problem, especially in the summer months. It can most often be found in fresh eggs, milk and fresh meat.
While certain pathogenic microorganisms will change the smell and appearance of food, salmonella will easily go unnoticed because it does not leave such traces. When it enters your body, the presence of salmonella will be made clear to you.
The symptoms of salmonella poisoning are the same as for poisoning by other bacteria and can occur in the period between 12-72 hours.
Food poisoning in healthy people is not overly dangerous, but in people who have weak immunity, it can have dangerous consequences and even lead to a fatal outcome.
How is the treatment carried out?
Bacteria that cause toxic changes in food have complicated names and diagnoses such as “Salmonella infection”, can be life-threatening and set off a panic alarm in your head.
Of course, this is not completely harmless, but there is no room for too much worry. It is uncomfortable, but in most cases, it is not life-threatening.
The treatment of food poisoning, including the treatment of salmonella, is mostly carried out at home and, if there are no additional complications, passes in a few days with the inconvenience suffered.
To successfully cope with the symptoms, it is necessary to drink enough liquids during the treatment. Water, tea, soup come into consideration, and sports drinks that are rich in electrolytes are extremely good. In this way, you will replenish the lost minerals, and the body will slowly return to normal.
If you have diarrhea and your appetite is not the best, you will need a special diet against diarrhea. To some extent, the organism itself will dictate the pace and the diet here.
When your appetite is disturbed, fatty foods will probably not please you. In the treatment of diarrhea, the most important thing is to drink enough liquids, and to introduce solid food gradually.
The anti-diarrhea diet briefly implies the following rules:
- Teas are better if they are useful. So instead of strawberry-flavoured fruit tea, take tea that will reduce stomach cramps (chamomile, mint, cumin)
- Introducing liquid food. The best are soups that have a lot of electrolytes and stews. An excellent choice is the rice water, whose specific mucous structure can help restore the work of the intestine.
- Avoid fresh fruits and vegetables and foods rich in fibre that will only stimulate the continuation of diarrhoea. However, not all fruits are banned. Banana is rich in potassium and in this case may be the right choice.
- Gradually introduce solid foods, preferably what you like best at the time because you don’t need to cause even more nausea. So, listen to your body. It can be biscuits, crackers, dry snacks and light meals such as boiled rice, potatoes or carrots. Yogurt with probiotic cultures is excellent against diarrhoea and can support the work of the intestines.
- Avoid dried meat products and strong spices.
Do not force yourself to eat if you really do not feel like eating, but try to get as much liquid as possible. With the recovery of the body, the appetite will become better!
When to see a doctor?
Food poisoning is exhausting and will literally drain your body, but it usually passes without major health consequences. However, if you experience the following symptoms you should see a doctor:
- Bloody vomiting or bloody stools
- Inability to hydrate well due to frequent vomiting or diarrhoea, dry mouth, irregular urination
- Diarrhoea lasting more than 3 days
- Severe abdominal pain
- High temperature – over 38.5 degrees C (101.3 degrees F)
- Dizziness and weakness
- Blurred vision and tingling sensation in the arms or legs
All these are signs that home treatment is not enough for you and that you need professional medical help. Your doctor will then prescribe an infusion and perform the necessary tests and possibly prescribe antibiotics.
10 tips to prevent food poisoning
If you want your picnic with friends to go without such consequences, only a few precaution measures are needed. Here are 10 tips to prevent food poisoning.
- Properly pack groceries in clean boxes. Raw food should be separated from the one that needs to be additionally prepared.
- Do not place prepared food in a plate or container containing fresh, unprepared food. This increases your chances of spreading the infection.
- Bring plenty of water for washing your hands and prepare a meal with clean hands. Paper towels and wet wipes are not out of the question either.
- Don’t be impatient. We know that nature makes you hungry and that grilled meat is enticing with its smell. However, it is very important that it is well heat-treated in order to destroy any bacteria.
- Do not defrost frozen food abruptly. It is best to do this gradually. Take it out of the freezer the day before and put it in the fridge to melt gradually.
- Do not eat raw eggs and unpasteurized milk. Always heat treat them.
- Heat the leftover food well – to the boiling point.
- Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables that you will eat raw.
- Throw away suspicious food. If the smell and appearance are not attractive or common for this type of food, it may be a sign that the activity of certain bacteria takes place on them. In that case, it is better to throw away the food than to suffer the consequences.
- Do not use expired food. Although the date on the packaging is only an approximate deadline, which can be a few days longer, it is best not to take risks with such foods.
The rule of storing and preparing food is relatively simple: Cold food should be stored in a cool place, and hot food should be well heated.
Food poisoning sounds like something fatal, but it usually isn’t. However, it is not uncommon during the summer months, so you need to know how to prevent it and how to treat it.
This is the time when the sun entices us to spend time outside and hang out, and when we will gladly take on the job of preparing barbecues or ordinary sandwiches for a picnic.
When you prepare food yourself, it is enough to take all preventive measures, store food properly, watch what you buy, look at expiry dates, evaluate the smell and taste and take care of hygiene.
Feasible, isn’t it?
The problem can occur when you eat in a restaurant in the summer months or buy fast food whose additions in the form of salads and toppings stand at the outside temperature, or in any situation when someone else is preparing the meal you are eating.
Take care of that even when you go swimming and bring sandwiches that spend a good part of the day at too high temperature.
Food poisoning may not immediately diminish your enjoyment in the charms of summer, but the next few days may very well be remembered by you as a bad experience.