Food Poisoning

food poisoning symptoms

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Overview of food poisoning

Global mortality rates are exponentially increasing every year due to lack of minimum hygiene conditions in the low and middle-income countries. World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that 3,51,000 death cases worldwide are documented each year due to “Food-borne diseases”. Foodborne diseases are the leading causes of epidemics in the underdeveloped countries. Hence global health organizations are stressing the need for mandatory food inspection in every country and enforcement of strict legal actions in case of any deviation from accepted standards of food quality.

What is food poisoning?

Food poisoning refers to the chain of diseases that follow after consumption of contaminated food items or fluids.

It is characterized by severe digestive disorders which can even prove to be fatal if allowed to persist.

Food poisoning incidences all over the world are mainly caused by bacterial infections.

Hence the number of food poisoning cases is highest in tropical and subtropical countries or regions with hot and humid climate, which are ideal for growth and propagation of harmful bacteria.

It can affect people of any age group, gender or ethnicity.Food items that are prone to bacterial contamination are- milk (unpasteurized), poultry, red meat, rice, eggs and few sea-foods (like shellfish).

What causes food poisoning?

Food poisoning is catalyzed by two main bacterial species – Salmonella and Staphylococcus. Food poisoning symptoms due to Staphylococcus species are manifested within 1 to 5 hours of consumption of the enterotoxin (released by the bacteria). Causative agents of food poisoning are mainly of three categories-

  • Bacteria
  • Virus
  • Chemicals (toxins)

The generalized causes (routes) of food poisoning are discussed below-

  • Eating or cooking without washing hands
  • Preparing food in unclean vessels
  • Storing or preparing food under extreme temperature conditions (5oC-60oC)
  • Buying food items from unreliable retailers
  • Overdose of insecticides or pesticides in few food items (crops)
  • Cross-contamination due to careless handling of food materials (Eg: Mixing up raw and cooked food)
  • Eating food items (sliced fruits) kept in open air for a prolonged period (increases chances of bacterial infections)
  • Presence of excessive preservatives in frozen food items
  • Having partially cooked or uncooked food
  • Having food without checking expiry dates
  • Storing food items in rusty, unclean and corroded containers
  • Consuming food items touched by animals (mainly pets) at home
  • Cooking food with polluted water
  • Loss of body’s immune capacity to combat infection

What are the warning signs?

Symptoms of food poisoning might mimic minor digestive disorders or related ailments.

Hence if the symptoms persist for a long time, a doctor must be consulted.

The symptoms might start manifesting themselves after 2-5 days of consumption of contaminated food, but can persist till 1-11 days.

Listed below are the characteristic symptoms of food poisoning.

  • Severe stomach pain
  • Long spells of nausea and vomiting (at times with blood)
  • Diarrhoea like symptoms (frequent watery stool)
  • Blood in stool
  • Stomach cramps after repeated instances of Diarrhoea
  • Impaired functioning of kidneys (in extreme cases)
  • Fever and headache
  • Body pains (mainly lower back pains)
  • General feeling of illness
  • Dizziness and extreme fatigue
  • Complete loss of appetite
  • Lack of digestive capacity
  • Premature labour pains (pregnant women)
  • General muscle cramps
  • Mental instability
  • Seizures and convulsions after repeated instances of diarrhoea
  • Impaired functioning of nervous system
  • Blurred vision and indistinct speech (in critical cases)
  • Mild paralysis conditions in few extreme cases
  • Occasional chills
  • Loss of body balance
  • Dehydration due to abnormal loss of body fluids
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid and shallow breathing

What are the different types of food poisoning?

Depending on the causative agent of contamination, food poisoning can be categorized into the following types-

Microbial food poisoning: It occurs due to contamination by microbes such as Salmonella, Clostridium, Escherichia, Staphylococcus. Toxins released by these microbes invade the body and cause food poisoning symptoms.

Chemical food poisoning: It is induced by different toxic chemicals that enter the bloodstream via different paths. It has the following subtypes-

  • Metal poisoning: It results from preserving food items (acidic ones) in metal containers (coated with cadmium, zinc or lead) or cooking in ill-maintained utensils.
  • Pesticide poisoning: It can occur if vegetables or fruits (containing excess pesticides) are cooked and consumed without washing properly.
  • Chemical toxin poisoning: It is caused by trace amounts of cleaning agents (that linger in food products) used in food manufacturing industries.
  • Preservative/additive poisoning: It occurs due to the presence of excess preservatives or additive agents (for color) in the food items.
  • Sterilizing agent poisoning: Residues of sterilizing or cleaning agents in cooking utensils can mix with food items and cause poisoning effects.
  • Natural food poisoning: It can occur due to accidental consumption of marine animals or plants that may contain toxic elements (Eg: Few poisonous varieties of mushroom)

Who are vulnerable to food poisoning?

People belonging to all age groups and ethnic groups are equally prone to food poisoning. But the following groups lack immunity to combat minor infections-

  • Aged people (due to degenerated immune systems)
  • Infants (due to underdeveloped immune systems)
  • Patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure (due to their disturbed immune systems)
  • People with naturally weak immune systems (immunocompromised people)
  • Pregnant women (due to their unstable immune system)

Diagnosis

Doctors will be able to differentiate between general digestive disorders and disorders due to food poisoning via blood tests, stool tests, rectal examination, toxoplasmosis tests and CT scan of the abdomen. The government bodies in different countries should adopt strict policies related to food safety and hygiene to reduce the global burden of food poisoning. Underprivileged people in different countries should be educated about the consequences of food poisoning. This way, a strategic planning can be devised to alleviate the existing global health scenario.

Treatment and Precaution

The treatment protocol for food poisoning involves two important steps which include replacement of lost bodily fluids and antibiotic drugs to counter any bacterial infection. Since the patient is losing a lot of fluids and electrolytes in the form of diarrhea and vomiting, he/ she might get severely dehydrated. To prevent this, he/she must be given minerals such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium either intravenously or orally. Antibiotic drugs are only helpful if the food poisoning has occurred due to bacterial infection.

Such drugs are of no use if the infection is viral. In fact, administering antibiotics drugs for the viral infection is counterproductive to treatment. In addition to these, it is important that the patient refrains from consuming any kind of food for a few hours and only suck on ice chips.  He/she should not consume greasy, spicy, and heavy food immediately after the treatment course.

Caffeine, alcohol, milk and dairy items, nicotine, tobacco, spicy foods should be avoided at all cost. Eat non-greasy, easy to digest food such as curd and fresh fruits. Getting ample rest is critical to the treatment process.  Generally, food poisoning spreads from contaminated meat. Always make sure that the meat (or poultry) is cooked at a temperature of 70-80 deg C at least to kill the microbes.  Leftover food should be refrigerated properly. When traveling, it is best to consume packaged or boiled water. Keep your hands sanitized.  Be wary of eating raw seafood and soft cheeses.


TL;DR?

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Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • The refrigerator is a breeding ground for disease-causing microbes. Keep it in a clean and sterile condition and make sure the temperature is low enough to deter microbial growth.
  • Always use a meat thermometer to check whether the meat is cooked or not, especially beef. Meat always looks well-done before it is actually safe for consumption.
  • Heating pads placed on the abdomen will help relieve the pain.
Don'ts
  • Eat food which has been kept at room temperature for more than two hours. In a buffet, food items ideally should be kept on ice or heated continuously.
  • Consume sugary foods, packaged goods, tea, or coffee.
  • Dehydrate yourself. Keep drinking healthy fluids to balance the loss of water.

 

 

 

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Lipoprotein (A) Test Lipoprotein (A) test is used to measure and monitor the levels of LDL(Low-Density Lipoprotein) in the bloodstream in…
Appendix pain: Recent findings on this not-so vestigial organ The exact function of the appendix is still not clear. Some consider it as an organ that once…
thyroid_scan
Thyroid Scan Thyroid scan is a diagnostic procedure that aims to view the thyroid gland and detect any growths or…
top 10 deadliest diseases
What are the top 10 deadliest diseases and what is causing them? What are the largest killers of human lives across the globe? Which diseases are the most fatal ones?…
Piaget stages: Do they accurately describe the way the human brain develops?  A common assumption was that children are less competent thinkers as compared to adults, but this was refuted…
antibiotic resistance
Antibiotic Resistance: How common diseases become deadly Can a cold kill you? How important is to get a flu shot? Why do antibiotics fail against…
toxo gondii igm test
Toxo Gondii-IgM Test The toxo gondii IgM test is a blood test that tells the presence or absence of toxoplasmosis IgM…
General adaptation syndrome: Understanding stress, one step at a time The struggle of the body to produce hormones during a stressful situation is the main theme of general…
Chlorella: Therapeutic powers of the billion-year-old algae now within your reach Chlorella - A billion year old nutrient-rich algae that can potentially ward off cancers and high cholesterol; the…
Top reasons why you need to pay attention to your vitamin B6 intake Vitamin B6- An essential water-soluble vitamin. Its deficiency leads to physical changes such as sores & glossy tongue…
passion fruit juice
Passion fruit: How one exotic fruit can help you fight infections and cancer! Passion fruit: Why does this exotic fruit have such an enticing name? And how can it protect you…
Balneotherapy jacuzzi
5 things you didn’t know about balneotherapy and how you can do it at home Sauna baths have been popular since a long time. But how much more beneficial can balneotherapy be as…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
PROLACTIN-(PRL)
Prolactin Test (PRL) Prolactin or PRL is a lactogenic hormone produced to induce milk production in lactating mothers. PRL test measures…
cardiolipin antibody igm
Cardiolipin Antibody (ACL) –IgM Test This particular test measures the level of IgM type antibodies in the blood by using the ELISHA test…
Pescatarian Diet 101: What are the inherent health advantages of this diet? People opt to become a pescatarian in order to enrich their bodies with the essential health benefits that…
High Fiber Diet – Fire up your fiber intake for these health benefits! Regular bowels, healthy detox, higher immunity, and guaranteed weight loss - a high fiber diet can bring all…
avocado benefits
Avocado: 15 reasons why this fruit should be a staple in your diet Did you know that the word avocado literally means "testicles". Don't get grossed out as this power-packed fruit…
carbamazepine
Carbamazepine / Tegretol test The carbamazepine is a drug that is used to treat epilepsy and the carbamazepine test is performed to…
Helicobacter pylori IGA
Helicobacter Pylori – IgA Test The H.pylori IgA test is a blood test used to identify the level of IgA antigen in the…
Sharpen your brain with these top brain-friendly foods! Did you know your diet could decide how razor sharp your memory is? Or that what you eat…
Astaxanthin: Why experts believe it could be 550x more potent than vitamin E! What is astaxanthin and why is this new supplement on the block touted as the most powerful antioxidant…
Goji berry: A traditional Chinese berry that packs the best of antioxidants Goji berry is an ancient berry that is considered to be power-packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Which means…
Cayenne: The remarkable benefits of these red hot chili peppers These may make you rush for a glass of water, but cayenne pepper is actually a healthy additive…
labiaplasty
Labiaplasty Labiaplasty is a surgical procedure to modify the labia minora and the labia majora. Learn about who can…
tonometry
Tonometry Tonometry uses a device called tonometer to measure the pressure inside the eye. This pressure is depends upon…
Okra: How can this nutrient-dense vegetable help you fight diabetes? Okra is a food which is rich in nutrients and minerals which are extremely essential for a healthy…
Juice Plus: Can you really replace actual fruits with pills?  Juice Plus supplements intend to fill nutritional gaps present in our daily diet. But how successful have they…
Barium-enema
Barium Enema Barium enema is also known as colon x-ray. Here, the patient is asked to consume small amount of…
Cardiolipin Antibody (ACL) –IgG Test The cardiolipin antibody IgG are responsible for the abnormal formation of clots in veins and arteries or phlebitis…
piles
Best treatment for piles in Bangalore All you need to know about piles and piles treatment in Bangalore - the types of treatment available,…
sugar toxic health
Sugar: 7 new shocking truths revealed about the sweet poison Can drinking soda bring you closer to death? Is sugar slowly poisoning you and your family? You would…
anoscopy
Anoscopy Anoscopy is an invasive diagnostic procedure where a small device known as anoscope will be inserted in the…
valproic acid test
Valproic Acid Test Valproic acid test is performed to generally check for psychiatric and even neurological conditions such as bipolar disease…
free testosterone test
Free testosterone Free Testosterone Test measures and monitors the level of the free testosterone in the blood. Less than 4%…
Mood swings
The real reasons for your mood swings and how to overcome them Are you prone to heated moods frequently? Do you also feel bouts of depressive feeling creeping up on…
anti-chlamydia antibody tets
Anti-Chlamydia Antibody -IgG Test Anti-Chlamydia Antibody - IgG test is performed by collection of urine or genital fluids as sample for testing…
Vitamin b12
Vitamin B12 Test Vitamin b12 is an essential nutrient required for healthy functioning of the nervous system and also development of…
Gua sha: Scraping away layers of pain with this ancient healing tool Gua sha is an ancient oriental healing method which focuses on scraping the body with specific tools to…
hsv-igg
Herpes simplex virus (HSV)-IgG Test Herpes simplex virus I(HSV)-IgG is an Immunoglobulin protein that acts as an antibody which stays in the blood…
Jackfruit: Slice your way into higher immunity, better digestion, & more… Native to the South East Asia, the jackfruit is a fruit brimming with thousands of health benefits. Discover…
Olive Leaf Extract: The healthy goodness of olives in a capsule Olive oil is not the only gift from the Olea Europea tree. Olive leaf extract itself is a…

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