Food poisoning occurs when a person eats food that has been contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Food can become contaminated during processing or production and at home if it is handled improperly or not cooked correctly. Food poisoning can be mild or severe, and in rare cases, it can be fatal. There is no cure for food poisoning, but treatments are available to help the body fight it better and to relieve the symptoms.
Food Poisoning Causes
Food poisoning is caused by viruses, bacteria, and parasites. There are many different kinds, and they can contaminate food at grocery stores, restaurants, homes, and the factories where the food is processed. Some of the most common types of food contaminants include:
- Clostridium botulinum
- E Coli
- Giardia lamblia
- Hepatitis A
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Vibrio vulnificus
Food Poisoning Symptoms
The symptoms of food poisoning can vary by person and can range from mild to severe. The type of virus, bacteria, or parasite responsible for the food poisoning can determine the symptoms and severity. Symptoms usually appear just a few hours after eating the contaminated food and can last up to a week. These symptoms include:
Food Poisoning Diagnosis
Diagnosis is based on the symptoms and length of time between eating and the onset of symptoms. Doctors might also perform tests to confirm that it is food poisoning causing the symptoms. If a parasite is found, the doctor might notify the local health department, who will determine where the food is coming from should there be an outbreak. Those tests might include:
- Blood tests: These will rule out other illnesses or health problems.
- Stool samples: Doctors will check the stool for signs of parasites, bacteria, and viruses to identify the cause of the food poisoning.
Food Poisoning Treatment
In most cases, food poisoning must run its course through the body. Many people simply recover at home on the couch, while others who have severe symptoms require medication. In the most severe cases, hospitalization might be required. Some common treatments for food poisoning include:
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics help kill the bacteria that might be the cause of the food poisoning. They can help the patient recover faster and lessen the severity of the symptoms.
- Fluid replacement: When a person has food poisoning, they can easily become dehydrated. Replacing fluid is essential to recovery. If the patient becomes very dehydrated, they might be admitted to the hospital and be given fluid via an IV.
- Anti-nausea medication: Anti-nausea medication can help reduce nausea and allow the patient to hold down fluids and some food.
Food Poisoning Prognosis
Most people recover from food poisoning in a few days. Some parasites, viruses, and bacteria can be worse than others, and some forms of food poisoning may lead to hospitalization. In rare cases, dehydration can lead to complications, such as organ failure and even death. Patients who have severe symptoms should see a doctor, and anyone who is suffering from food poisoning should drink plenty of liquids.