What is food poisoning?
Food poisoning is any illness that happens after eating contaminated food. It is also commonly called “foodborne illness.” The illness can arise from contamination if the form of bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites, or any toxins these germs produce remain in the food that becomes ingested.
Contamination can occur at any point in the food development and preparation chain. Food contamination can become introduced at many points of production including growing, harvesting, storage, shipping, and final food preparation.
The illness can range from mild to severe and usually occurs a few hours after eating the contaminated food.
Signs of food poisoning
- Extreme nausea
- Stomach cramps and stomach pain
- Fever (101 F or higher)
If any of these occur, best to check with your doctor for the treatment options and instructions.
Food poisoning treatment
Treatment is directed at alleviating the symptoms. Because of vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration is a major concern. Dehydration can cause light-headedness, decreased urination, and fatigue.
Dehydration also brings with it the loss of important electrolytes, so fluid replacement is very important. Best to drink water or drinks designed for fluid rehydration such as Gatorade, Pedialyte, or other electrolyte replacement drinks.
Dehydration is also combatted by using anti-diarrheal treatments such as Pepto-Bismol or Immodium AD. You may also check with your doctor to see what they recommend.
If an infectious agent is the cause, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic. The sooner, the better. Of particular concern is food poisoning in patients who are pregnant. Treatments can help prevent the foodborne illness from affecting the baby.
Two important steps in recovering from food poisoning include getting plenty of rest and easing back into regular eating patterns. Start by eating simple foods like soda crackers, rice and bread until your stomach recovers. Avoid spicy and fatty foods.
Remember, the majority of foodborne illnesses will go away on their own. Unfortunately, in some cases, it may last longer and be severe. Some cases can even be life-threatening.
It is important to check with your doctor if you have the signs and symptoms of food poisoning to have an action plan in place for the best treatment. It is also especially important to check with your physician if you are pregnant or immunocompromised for specific instructions to avoid serious complications.
Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD is a board certified dermatologist and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He also has a private practice in Eagan, MN. He has been selected as one of the top 10 dermatologists in the U.S. by Black Enterprise magazine and one of the top 21 African American physicians in the U.S. by the Atlanta Post. Dr. Crutchfield is an active member of the Minnesota Association of Black Physicians, MABP.org.