Food Poisoning

About Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning is the most common gastrointestinal disease also known as traveller's disease. Food Poisoning is one of the common pathological conditions of the digestive system often caused by eating contaminated food. The most common causes of food contamination resulting in Food Poisoning is the presence of organism like bacteria, viruses or parasites in the food. The presence of toxins as well as live bacteria, viruses and parasites in food causes infection of mucosal membrane of the digestive system. Food can become contaminated if left out in the open for a long time or undercooked prior to serving. The food if stored in the container without proper processing can result in contamination.

The onset of symptoms of food poisoning are observed within hours of eating contaminated food. Food poisoning may last anywhere from 18-24 hours to 2-3 weeks depending on the cause. The most common food poisoning symptoms observed are nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Majority of times, food poisoning is quite a benign condition and in most cases resolves on its own. Few cases of Food Poisoning may need medical attention to treat complications like persistent infection, dehydration and weakness. This article covers everything you need to know about food poisoning, its onset and how long does food poisoning lasts, causes, symptoms, signs, treatment, home remedies, and prevention.

Onset of Food Poisoning & How Long Does It Last?

Onset of Food Poisoning Within 4 to 6 Hours and Its Recovery- The mucosal reaction to food allergens like seafood or mushroom causes symptoms within 2 to 6 hours. The symptoms are self-limiting. In few cases patient is treated to control diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration. Such Food Poisoning symptoms may last for 18 to 24 hours.

Onset of Food Poisoning Within 6 Hour and Its Recovery- Food poisoning caused due to Staphylococcus aureus causes appearance of symptoms within 6 hours. Symptoms of Staphylococcus aureus food poisoning may last for 1 to 2 days or longer if not treated with antibiotics.

Onset of Food Poisoning Symptoms Within 8 to 12 Hours and Its Recovery Period- Symptoms of the food poisoning when caused by Clostridium Perfringens appears in 8 to 12 hours. Food poisoning is caused by spores and symptoms may result in severe diarrhea and vomiting. Patient may need hospitalization for diagnosis and treatment. Symptoms of food poisoning when caused by Clostridium Perfringens may last for 3 to 4 days when treated with antibiotics. Symptoms may continue for several days if disease is not treated with antibiotics. Dehydration may be life threatening if diarrhea and vomiting is not controlled. Recovery time to resume normal activities following food poisoning due to Clostridium Perfringens may be 3 to 4 weeks.

Food Poison Symptoms Onset Within 24 to 72 Hours and Its Recovery- The food poisoning caused by Campylobacter, Botulism, Salmonella and Shigella causes symptoms 24 hours after food intake. The incubation period of these bacteria infection is 24 to 72 hours. The infection may cause bacterial spread through blood to other organs. Infection if not treated with antibiotics may result in life threatening complications. Patient suffering with mild to moderate food poisoning symptoms are treated in doctors office and may not need hospital admission. Patient suffering with severe food poisoning and systemic complication may need hospital admission. Such mild to moderate food poisoning infection may last for 7 to 10 days and severe infection may last for 3 to 4 week

Recovery Period of Food Poisoning Symptoms That Appear After 72 Hours Following Infection- Food poisoning resulting in infection caused by E. Coli or Yersinia Enterocolitica causes appearance of symptoms after 3 days. Patient may suffer with mild to moderate diarrhea only. Dehydration is often not observed if patient is hydrated with oral liquid. Infection lasts for 3 to 7 days if treated with antibiotics. Symptoms may continue if food poisoning is not treated with antibiotics and may result in dehydration as well as electrolyte abnormalities. Food poisoning from E. Coli or Yersinia Enterocolitica may last for 10 to 15 days when treated with appropriate antibiotics.

How Long Does it Take to Recover From Gastrointestinal Food Poisoning That Appear After Several Days Or Weeks Following Infection?

Gastrointestinal food poisoning resulting in GI infection caused by parasites may results in salient infection with no symptoms for several weeks. Food poisoning causing parasite infection such as amoebiasis, giardiasis and worm infection may last for several weeks or months. Diagnosis is often difficult and treatment is delayed because of lack of proper diagnosis. The infection resulting in symptoms of on and often diarrhea may not cause severe dehydration but may result in weakness, loss of appetite and persistent feeling of nausea. The complete recovery following food poisoning resulting in GI infection caused by parasites after proper anti-parasite treatment is 2 to 3 weeks.

Food Poison

What Are The Causes Of Food Poisoning?

The most common cause of Food Poisoning is contamination of food which can happen at any point during its production, processing, cooking etc. Sometimes, the offending organism can transfer from one surface to the other. This phenomenon is called cross contamination. Food poisoning can happen by eating foods like salad, as they are not cooked before eating and the organism are not destroyed and can cause Food Poisoning.

Campylobacter Infection- Campylobacter is a bacterium, which is found in contaminated food. The bacterium is found in contaminated milk, water and food.

Salmonella Infection- Salmonella is a gram-negative bacteria mostly transmitted during contacts with infected pigs, cattle and pets. The bacteria is also transmitted through contaminated milk, undercooked meat and poultry product like egg. Salmonella is also transmitted from farmer or worker who is employed in poultry farm. Consumption of raw meat of infected animal like ham, beef, turkey and chicken can cause Food Poisoning.

Salmonella Infection

Listeria Infection- The bacteria Listeria is often found in contaminated lake water of stagnant drainage water. The vegetable is contaminated when contaminated water is used for irrigation. Vegetable also gets contaminated when infected fertilizer is used in vegetable farming. Listerosis is often wide spread infection in community using vegetable, milk and animal product from same source of supplier.

Botulism- Food poisoning botulism is caused by bacteria Clostridium botulinum. Contamination of food causes release of toxins by bacteria. The symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea is observed within few hours of consumption of contaminated food.

Mold and Toxins- Mold and toxins in food can cause diarrhea and vomiting resulting in food poisoning.

Allergens- Allergy to some of the food like milk, egg or seafood can cause Food Poisoning.

What Are The Risk Factors For Food Poisoning?

Some of the risk factors for developing Food Poisoning are as mentioned below:

Food Poisoning in Elderly Population: As one ages, the immune system is not able to cope up with the food that one eats and digesting food becomes that much more difficult. In that case, if contaminated food is eaten, the body is not able to take care of it as swiftly and effectively as done previously during young age and thus people of advanced age are more susceptible to Food Poisoning than the younger generation.

Food Poisoning During Pregnancy: When a female is pregnant, there are quite a few hormonal changes that take place, which results in alterations in the rate of metabolism predisposing the female to Food Poisoning, although if a female gets affected with Food Poisoning it does not affect the baby.

Food Poisoning During Pregnancy

Food Poisoning in Infants: They are more at risk since their immune system is still under the development stage and thus they are susceptible to Food Poisoning.

Food Poisoning With Underlying Disease Conditions: If an individual suffers from disease conditions like diabetes, liver dysfunction or HIV/AIDS or is under treatment for any type of cancer it compromises the immune system to a significant degree as receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer reduces your immune response.

What Are The Symptoms Of Food Poisoning?

Some of the symptoms of Food Poisoning are:

Gastrointestinal Symptoms of Food Poisoning-

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loose watery diarrhea
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Abdominal cramping.

Systemic Effects of Food Poisoning-

  • Fever
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness

Symptoms and Signs of Dehydration in Food Poisoning-

  • Blurred Vision
  • Dizziness
  • Generalize weakness
  • Dry mouth.

How Is Food Poisoning Diagnosed?

The treating physician can make the diagnosis of Food Poisoning by observing the symptoms experienced by the individual and taking detailed history. The physician may enquire about the food that the individual has consumed before the symptoms started. A physical examination will also be conducted to look for any signs of dehydration due to symptoms. Depending on the signs and symptoms, the physician may order certain diagnostic tests to identify the exact cause of Food Poisoning. A stool culture may also be obtained to look for any sort of parasite causing the symptoms.

What Are The Treatments For Food Poisoning?

Food Poisoning is quite a benign condition and may resolve on its own without treatment; however, in some cases treatment is required and include the following:

  • Replacement of Fluids: Food Poisoning may cause watery diarrhea and persistent vomiting which may cause the body to lose fluids and electrolytes essential for normal function. Hence these lost fluids will be replenished intravenously in a hospital setting in order to prevent dehydration.
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics may be prescribed if bacteria causes Food Poisoning and the symptoms are acute and become uncontrolled. The treatment for Food Poisoning caused by bacteria needs to be started as soon as possible.
  • Other Medications- An effective medication given to adults suffering from Food Poisoning is Pepto-Bismol.

Home Remedies Suggested For Food Poisoning

Some of the home remedies suggested for Food Poisoning are:

  • As soon as the symptoms of Food Poisoning start try and avoid eating or drinking for a few hours
  • Try and take small amounts of water consistently. Non-caffeinated and mineralized drinks like Gatorade can also be taken so as to prevent excessive loss of fluids from the body
  • Once the symptoms start to resolve try and get back into normal diet gradually beginning with a bland diet and eat foods that can be digested easily by the body
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, fatty or spicy food until the symptoms resolve
  • Take adequate rest so that the body calms down from the illness.

Tips To Prevent Food Poisoning

If an individual practices the below mentioned recommendations, then it can go a long way in preventing Food Poisoning.

  • It is imperative to wash the hands with warm water before and after meals thoroughly and wash kitchen utensils with lukewarm water. One should keep raw and uncooked food away from already cooked food. It is also important to keep items like meat, fish, and eggs away from other food items while buying them in order to prevent contamination.
  • One can also use a food thermometer to make sure that the food is cooked at an optimum temperature to prevent it from getting overcooked. It also eliminates all the germs present in the food.
  • It is important to keep food that get rotten quickly in a refrigerator as soon as it is bought home
  • It is also important to defrost frozen food in a safe manner so as not to contaminate them.
  • Even if there is a slightest doubt that the food has become rotten then throw the food and try not to eat it as it can lead to Food Poisoning.

Foods That Are Advisable To Avoid In Order To Prevent Food Poisoning Are:

  • Raw meat and poultry items
  • Undercooked fish, oysters, mussels etc
  • Undercooked eggs
  • Raw sprouts
  • Unpasteurized juice
  • Unpasteurized milk and other dairy products
  • Soft cheeses
  • Refrigerated meat spreads
  • Uncooked hot dogs and deli meats.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: November 10, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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