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Health Topic:  Food Poisoning - Health Advisor [CRS]

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Food Poisoning
  What is food poisoning?
  Food poisoning is an illness that you may get after eating food contaminated by some types of bacteria, parasites, and viruses.
  How does it occur?
Bacteria are all around you--on your hands, countertops, floor--everywhere.  Eating a few bacteria usually won't hurt you.  However, if you eat some types of bacteria, you may become sick.  Some food poisonings are caused by the bacteria themselves.  Others are caused by poisons (also called toxins) made by the bacteria.  Poisons may be produced by bacteria before or after you eat contaminated food. 
Many types of bacteria grow best in a warm, moist place.  Food can provide a great place for bacteria to grow if it is not properly cooled, stored, or heated.  However, even if you cook and eat your food promptly, you can still get food poisoning.  For example, bacteria can get into your cooked food if the cooked food touches an unwashed utensil or countertop that was used to prepare uncooked meat.  That is why it is important to wash your hands, utensils, and countertops before and after you handle raw meat.  Examples of bacteria that cause food poisoning are E. coli, Clostridium perfringens, Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus, and Salmonella. 
Food, especially beef, can be contaminated as it is processed for sale to grocery stores.  For example, a harmful type of E. coli bacteria might get into the food at the slaughterhouse or the butcher.
Salmonella food poisoning is common and caused most often by eating food containing raw eggs or undercooked chicken or turkey. 
Botulism is a type of food poisoning caused by Clostridium botulinum.  These bacteria may grow in places with no oxygen, such as sealed cans and vacuum-packed foods. 
The viruses that commonly cause food poisoning are found in water that has been contaminated with human bowel movements.  The viruses invade foods such as oysters, clams, and other shellfish.  If you drink the water or eat the seafood raw or partially cooked, you may become ill. 
Parasites can also cause food poisoning.  The most common type of parasitic food poisoning is called trichinosis.  Trichinosis is caused by roundworms in pork. 
  What are the symptoms?
  Symptoms of food poisoning include:
{     }vomiting
{     }diarrhea
{     }stomach pain
{     }fever (in some cases). 
  If you have botulism, you probably will not have a fever and the symptoms may also include:
  blurred vision
{     }fatigue
{     }dry mouth and throat. 
  Depending on the cause, symptoms may develop within hours to months after you eat contaminated food.  The most common types of food poisoning produce symptoms within 30 minutes to 2 days.  Some toxins in shellfish may take only a few minutes to cause symptoms. 
  How is it diagnosed?
  Food poisoning is often suspected when several people become ill after eating the same food.  Your health care provider will try to determine what is causing your illness by asking about your symptoms and the kind of food you ate just before you became ill.  Your provider may ask for samples of the food you ate or for a sample of your bowel movements.  The samples can be tested for contamination. 
  How is it treated?
  Treatment depends on the cause of the food poisoning and the severity of the illness.  Generally your health care provider will recommend resting, following a specific diet, and drinking plenty of fluids.  You may be given medicine to stop vomiting and stomach cramping. 
{     }If you have botulism, your health care provider may prescribe an antitoxin.  Other types of food poisoning have no antidote.  Antibiotics are usually not helpful for food poisoning. 
  How long will the effects last?
  It usually takes about 1 to 5 days to recover fully from food poisoning. 
{     }Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with a chronic disease or weak immune system can become seriously ill from food poisoning.  In such cases, it is especially important to contact a health care provider when food poisoning is suspected.
  How can I take care of myself?
  Do not take medicines that stop diarrhea.  They decrease the flow through the bowel, causing the bacteria to stay in the system longer.
{     }If you have a fever over 100 (37.8 rest as much as you can.  Ask your health care provider if you can take aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen to control your fever.  (Anyone under age 21 who may have a viral illness should not take aspirin because aspirin increases the risk of Reye's syndrome.)  After your temperature falls below 100 you may increase your activity, but don't do more than is comfortable for you. 
{     }If you have cramps or stomach pain, it may help to put a hot water bottle or electric heating pad (set on low) on your stomach. 
{     }If you have diarrhea, avoid milk products, since they may make the diarrhea worse. 
{     }Let your bowel rest by drinking or sipping only clear liquids such as water, apple juice, weak tea, and bouillon.  You may also drink soft drinks without caffeine (such as 7 UP) after letting them lose some of their carbonation (go flat).  It is important to drink small amounts (1 to 4 ounces) often so that you do not become dehydrated.  Becoming dehydrated may be very dangerous, especially for children and some people who have other diseases.  Suck on ice chips or Popsicles if you feel too nauseated to drink fluids.  Do not eat solid foods because they can cause cramps. 
{     }As your symptoms improve, add soft bland foods--such as cooked cereal, rice, custard, potato, ramen noodles, eggs, plain gelatin, and applesauce--to your diet.  Avoid milk products for a few days.  (Milk products are more difficult to digest.)  Return to your normal diet after 2 or 3 days of the soft-food diet, but avoid fresh fruit and vegetables, alcohol, and highly seasoned or spicy foods for several days. 
{     }Call your health care provider right away if:
  You are pregnant or elderly or have a chronic illness or weakened immune system.
{     }An infant, young child, or elderly person becomes listless, withdrawn, or inactive.
{     }The vomiting and diarrhea last more than a couple of hours in young children.
{     }You have nervous symptoms, such as tingling, weakness, or headache.
{     }You have a high fever as well as other symptoms.
  What can I do to prevent food poisoning?
  Follow these guidelines to prevent food poisoning:
  Make sure the dairy products you eat and drink have been pasteurized. 
{     }Throw away any cans that are bulging or leaking.  Do not taste any foods that look or smell suspicious after you open the container.  Remember also that contaminated foods can seem normal in appearance and smell. 
{     }Wash your hands before you prepare, cook, or serve food and after you go to the bathroom or touch animals.  Cover any sore or cut on your hands before preparing food.  Use rubber gloves or cover the sore with a clean bandage.
{     }Rinse fresh vegetables and fruits before you eat or cook them. 
{     }Wash cutting boards or any utensils used with raw meat before you use them with other foods.  (It's best to have two cutting boards: one for meat, one for other foods.) Keep kitchen counters and other food preparation surfaces clean.  Replace used dishcloths and kitchen towels with clean ones often.
{     }Thaw frozen poultry completely before you cook it.  Thaw meat in the refrigerator or use a microwave to defrost it.  Do not let it stand at room temperature. 
{     }Cook food especially meat, poultry, and leftovers, thoroughly.  Pork should be heated to an internal temperature of at least 160 (71 For whole chickens and turkeys a temperature of 180 (82 is recommended for thigh meat, 170 (77 for breast meat.  Never partially cook meat or poultry and then finish cooking it later. 
{     }Refrigerate leftover meat, seafood, dairy products, eggs, or poultry as soon as possible.  Do not let it sit out of the refrigerator longer than 2 hours.  Make sure your refrigerator maintains a temperature of 40 (4 or lower. 
{     }Make sure when you home-can foods that you sterilize the food completely by heating it in a pressure cooker at 250 (121 for 30 minutes. 
  If you have food poisoning, you can help prevent spreading it to other people by avoiding unnecessary contact with others until your symptoms are gone.  Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and very warm water after you use the restroom.  Do not prepare food for other people.  If you must prepare or serve food, wash your hands thoroughly before you cook or serve food and before you eat.  Do not work as a food handler in restaurants, dining halls, or grocery stores until your diarrhea is completely gone. 
{     }You can get more information on food poisoning and safe food handling from:
  American College of Gastroenterology (ACG).  Call 703-820-7400 or visit the Web site at http://www.acg.gi.org.
{     }Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The Web site is http://www.cfsan.fda.gov.
{     }Food Safety and Inspection Service, US Department of Agriculture.  Call 800-535-4555 or visit the Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov.
Developed by McKesson Health Solutions LLC.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Copyright 2005 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.

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