Food poisoning is a common problem that affects people throughout the world. It is an infection of a food borne organism. There are several types of food borne organisms that can cause food poisoning. The symptoms of food poisoning can range from mild intestinal discomfort to severe and even life threatening symptoms.
Anyone who eats is at risk of having food poisoning. Those with a weak immune system are at greater risk of having severe and life threatening symptoms from food poisoning. Those who are elderly and the very young who have not yet developed a full immune system and those with compromised immune systems from other diseases are especially at risk from food poisoning.
The symptoms of food poisoning vary with each type of food poisoning. The general symptoms that indicate food poisoning though are intestinal discomfort that can range from mild to extreme.
- Abdominal pain
- Occasionally vomiting
- Fever can also be a symptom of food poisoning
Types and Causes
There are several types of food poisoning and each has their own causes and food sources.
- Campylobacter is a bacterium that causes acute diarrhea. It is caused by contaminated food, water and unpasteurized milk. It can also be passed from infected infants and animals.
- Salmonella is a bacterial infection that is passed by pets, domestic animals, wild animals and even from drinking unpasteurized milk. The most common causes of salmonella occur from eating under cooked poultry or poultry products like eggs. It can also contaminate surfaces that are touched by these products. Chronic forms of salmonella can enter into the blood stream. These carriers may not even have a symptom of the bacterial infection but are able to spread it to others.
- Shigella is an infection caused by faeces. It is typically found in tropical climates where the population is crowded and hygiene is poor. It causes dysentery which is a severe form of diarrhea.
- E. coli is possibly one of the most common types of food poisoning in the United States with an estimated 73,000 cases each year in the U.S. Most cases of E. coli are caused from eating contaminated, under cooked ground beef, drinking unpasteurized milk and from swimming or drinking water contaminated by sewage. It is also possible to pass or spread E. coli from poor hygiene as the bacteria are found in the stool of infected patients. These bacteria can be present for up to two weeks after symptoms diminish.
- Listeria is a bacterium that is found in the soil and water. Animals can also carry Listeria bacteria. It is commonly caused by eating contaminated animals, and vegetables contaminated by the soil or fertilizers.
- Botulism is one of the most serious types of food poisoning. Botulism can be a food borne illness but can also be caused by wound infections. The food form of botulism is generally caused by home canned foods, canned fish such as sardines, undercooked baked potatoes, tomatoes, and chili peppers. It is also commonly seen in infants due to the consumption of honey by those younger than age 1.
Alternative Treatments for Food Poisoning
While there are treatments for symptoms associated with food poisoning, they are not suggested as they can cause the illness to be prolonged. Most cases of food poisoning will improve on it’s own in a few days. If these symptoms are severe or prolonged the patient should be seen by a physician.
The most important treatment for food poisoning is hydration. You should drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration when food poisoning is suspected.
If the symptoms are severe or last more than a few days, a medical professional should be seen. If botulism is suspected then immediate medical attention is required. It is best to err on the side of caution and see a medical professional whenever food poisoning is suspected as there are several different ways to treat depending on the type of food poisoning.
The number one treatment for food poisoning in general is IV fluids. It is very important to keep the patient well hydrated. It is also possible that a doctor will induce vomiting or provide an enema to induce vomiting to clear out any remaining food in the patients system. Most cases of food poisoning will clear up on it’s own in a few days and in some cases a few hours.
Botulism is treated with an antitoxin which is required as Botulism is a severe form of food poisoning.