You feel wretched — nausea and vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, headache, fever and chills, weakness. The mere thought of food sets off another wave of misery.
Urp! You might have food poisoning. It happens when you eat food or drink water containing bacteria, parasites, viruses or toxins made by these germs, said Jackie Doris, MD, of the HonorHealth Medical Group. The organisms pass through your stomach into your intestine and start to multiply. Some stay there, some produce a toxin that’s absorbed into your bloodstream, and others migrate to body tissues. The result – you get very sick.
“Most food poisoning cases are caused by common bacteria such as E. coli or staphylococcus,” Dr. Doris said. “Symptoms can start anywhere from one hour to seven days after you’ve consumed the germs.”
Keeping food at the proper temperatures as you camp or picnic is crucial to staying well. You can get food poisoning after you eat or drink:
- Food prepared by someone who didn’t wash his/her hands properly.
- Undercooked meat or eggs.
- Food prepared with contaminated cooking tools.
- Raw fruits or vegetables that have not been washed well.
- Dairy products or food containing mayonnaise that have sat out, unrefrigerated, for too long.
- Frozen or refrigerated foods stored at the wrong temperature or not properly reheated.
- Raw fish or oysters.
- Unpasteurized fruit juices, honey and dairy products.
- Untreated water.
The stomach turning fact is... different foods get contaminated in different ways. For example, meat or poultry gets contaminated when it comes into contact with bacteria from an animal’s intestines. Or when water used during growing or shipping vegetables and fruits contains animal or human waste. And when food is handled improperly at grocery stores, restaurants or homes – including preparation or when it has left out too long.
Children and the elderly are at the greatest risk. Most individuals typically recover within 12 to 48 hours. The loss of fluids, with accompanying thirst, dizziness and light-headedness, is the biggest issue. See your doctor if:
- You can’t keep water down — you may need intravenous fluids.
- Diarrhea has not improved or worsens in five days.
- You have bloody diarrhea.
- You have a fever above 101 degrees —100.4 degrees for kids with diarrhea.
Food poisoning is no fun. Clean hands, proper refrigeration and preparation, and knowing how to avoid food poisoning may not be what your dinner guests will remember. But it will avoid the unforgettable!