Food Poisoning

by Kemboi Kibet  

Food poisoning happens after consuming a contaminated food or drink. It also called food borne disease. Different types of organisms such as different types of bacteria, viruses and parasites and their toxins usually cause food poisoning. Food poisoning can be mild or deadly and depending on the organisms that cause it. Victims may be symptom free or have symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea , vomiting, cramping, fever and chills. Food contamination can occur  during food processing and production or can even happen at home when food is manhandled.



Food poisoning can be caused by infectious agents such as viruses, bacteria and parasites or toxic agents such as pesticides on fruits. Food contamination can happen from growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping or preparing.

Some of the most common bacteria  that cause food poisoning  are:

  • Salmonella
  • Listeria
  • Campylobacter
  • E. coli



Symptoms of food poisoning vary depending the type of contaminant but most  types present one or more of these common symptoms. They include the following :

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • watery diarrhea
  • abdominal pain and cramps

Food poisoning is usually mild and may run its course for 24-48 hours .In severe cases however symptoms may last longer and patient may need to be hospitalised. Symptoms can develop quickly within an hour or may be slow and worsen with time.



Groups of people or conditions that put one at a higher risk of getting food poisoning include the following:

Pregnant Women : Changes in metabolism and increased circulation may increase your risk of catching food poisoning. Their symptoms may be severe. It is however rare for your baby to get sick from it.

Children : These group face the risk of getting food poisoning because their immune system is not fully developed.

Elderly : The elderly usually have compromised immune system due to their age or illness making it difficult for them to fight infection.

People With Chronic Diseases : Diseases such as HIV and diabetes reduces the effect of your immune system to fight diseases.



Your doctor will ask you detailed questions to help diagnose food poisoning. These include what your symptoms are, how long you’ve been sick, what foods you’ve eaten and so on.Doctor may also check you for dehydration and may also check your blood pressure, pulse, breathing rate and temperature. In some cases stool samples will be sent to the lab to identify the toxin causing symptoms. Blood test may also be done to check for seriousness of the sickness.



Most cases of food poisoning may resolve on its own but some may need to be treated. Treatment depends on severity of disease and organism causing the symptoms.

Replacing Lost Fluids : During diarrhea the body loses essential electrolytes and fluids and these need to be replaced to avoid dehydration. Patients may need to be hospitalised and nutrients and fluid replaced through an IV. Giving fluid and electrolyte through an IV is faster than oral hydration.


Antibiotics : Pregnant women with food poisoning may need to be treated with antibiotics to prevent baby from getting infected. Some organisms like listeria need to be treated with antibiotics.

Doctor may also treat fever with medications and may also give anti vomiting medication to control vomiting. He may also treat diarrhea with medications



These self-care or home remedies makes patients more comfortable and prevent dehydration.

Let your stomach settle. Do not eat or drink for a few hours.

Small frequent sips of water helps keep you hydrated.

Avoid alcoholic, caffeinated, or sugary drinks.

Get enough rest.

Gradually begin to eat bland, easy-to-digest foods, such as soda crackers and banana.

Don’t use anti-diarrheal medications.They may slow elimination of toxins from the body.



Cook foods to a safe temperature. Use meat themometer.

  • Cook ground meats to 160 F (71 C)
  • Cook ground poultry to 165 F (74 C)
  • Cook beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts and chops to 145 F (63 C)
  • Cook all cuts of fresh pork to 160 F (71 C).
  • Whole poultry should reach 180 F (82 C) in the thigh; breasts 170 F (76.6 C).

Defrost food safely. Safe way to defrost food is to use refrigerator or microwave.

Never leave food out for more than two hours.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

Wash before and after handling raw food.

keep raw foods such as poultry away from other foods to prevent cross contamination.

keep surfaces and cooking items clean.

Store perishable foods immediately in refrigerator.

When not sure of food safety, throw away.



Food poisoning can cause dehydration which can be fatal. It is essential to stay hydrated by taking frequent sips of water or getting hydrated through IV if need be.


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