Food recalls are on the rise. The FDA recalls almost a hundred million units of food every quarter. That’s an incredible number, and for many, it’s understandably a cause for concern. In such an environment, how can you minimize the risk of getting ill from unsafe food? What should you do if you suspect food poisoning?
The Root of Food Poisoning
Food poisoning is caused by consuming food contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or toxins. Norovirus, Salmonella, Listeria, and E.coli are only the tip of the iceberg — The Center for Disease Control cites over 250 foodborne diseases.
In our global economy, the food we eat can — and does — come from anywhere! It’s possible for contamination to occur at any point from its origin to your grocery store, favorite restaurant, or kitchen table. Production, processing, transportation, storage, preparation, cooking — our food goes through a lot before it ends up in our mouths!
Food is commonly contaminated due to:
- Unsafe food handling practices
- Poorly washed fruits and vegetables
- Unmonitored temperature regulation for prolonged periods (think outdoor picnics and restaurant buffets)
- Undercooked meat and poultry
So, what happens if you or a loved one consume contaminated food or water?
Symptoms of Food Poisoning
The most common symptoms of food poisoning are:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Stomach pain or cramps
Food poisoning symptoms may not start until days after eating the contaminated food, which can make it difficult to determine exactly what the culprit was! Other times, symptoms may start within minutes of consumption. Depending on which bacteria, virus, or parasite is at fault, symptoms will either subside after a couple of days, or last up to a week.
Should I see a doctor for food poisoning?
Cases of mild food poisoning usually go away on their own. Resting and staying hydrated are the best treatments.
However, there are some cases that warrant a visit to your primary doctor or local urgent care clinic.
Babies and children, elderly people, those with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women should always err on the side of caution and see a doctor in cases of food poisoning.
Pregnant women who are infected with Listeria risk having the bacteria spreading to the fetus and causing stillbirth.
In addition, see a doctor if you experience:
- Fever over 101.5°F
- Dizziness when standing
- Decreased urination
- Dry mouth and throat
These can be signs of severe dehydration, which needs to be treated immediately.
How to prevent food poisoning
The NHS provides 10 ways to prevent food poisoning, among them:
- Wash your hands. (And not just after handling that raw chicken, but raw veggies, too!)
- Let dishcloths dry completely before using them again.
- Store raw meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge.
- Use a fridge thermometer to make sure your refrigerator stays below 41°F.
- Cool cooked food down within 90 minutes before storing in the fridge.
We’re here when you need us!
The friendly doctors here at In and Out Express Care are here when you need us! If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms that you think might be food poisoning, please don’t hesitate to come in to one of our four urgent care clinics in Hampton Roads.