What is food poisoning?
Food poisoning is a food-borne illness. It results from eating contaminated, spoiled, or toxic food due to unsanitary exposure or preparation.
What causes food poisoning?
There are 3 major causes; Bacteria, Parasites and Viruses. Bacteria is the most common cause of this ailment. Dangerous bacteria like E.coli, Listeria, Campylobacter, Salmonella and C. botulinum that causes (botulism). However, Salmonella is the popular cause of serious food poisoning.
For parasites, the Toxoplasma is the parasite seen most often in cases of food poisoning. It’s typically found in cat litter boxes – a sanitary indoor box for pets (esp cats) to dispose of urine and faeces. So, people who keep indoor pets beware, especially for cat lovers. If you already have a weakened immune system or currently have an ill-health condition you are at higher risk.
For viruses, the norovirus, also known as the Norwalk virus, is most popular causing millions of cases, this might be due to the fast spread of viruses in general. In rare cases, it can be fatal. sapovirus, rotavirus and astrovirus bring on similar symptoms, but they’re less common. Hepatitis A virus also can be transmitted through food causing a serious condition.
How can food be exposed to it?
Disease-causing organisms (pathogens) are everywhere. However, some measures prevent their effect. Starting from the kitchen, heat from cooking usually kills these pathogens on food in the before it reaches our plate. Be careful about pets being around your meals. Also, foods eaten raw are common sources of food poisoning because they don’t go through the cooking process.
Occasionally, our foods may come in contact with the organisms in faecal matter (faeces). This most commonly happens when a person preparing food doesn’t wash their hands before cooking especially after visiting the toilet or cleaning up child “poo”.
Foods like ground meat, suya, poorly prepared “shawarma”, eggs, and dairy products are frequently contaminated (be careful about locally prepared yoghurts and other milk-based drinks). Water may also be contaminated with organisms that cause illness especially if a sewage tank is close to the household tap or in cases of leakage etc.
What are the symptoms to look out for?
The most common symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Others are; abdominal cramps, mild fever, headaches, fatigue, appetite loss.
Life-threatening food poisoning symptoms include: continued diarrhoea persisting for more than three days, a fever higher than 101.5°F, difficulty seeing or speaking, severe dehydration is seen as dry mouth passing little or no urine, bloody urine.
What first aid is best for food poisoning?
Most cases of food poisoning resolve within three to five days and can be treated at home. But then, if you have food poisoning, it’s very important to remain properly hydrated. Fruit juice and coconut water help relieve fatigue. Avoid caffeine, it may irritate the digestive tract.
Reports have shown that, in severe cases of food poisoning, individuals may require hydration with intravenous (IV) fluids at a hospital. Worst-case scenarios require a longer hospitalization.
How can one prevent food poisoning?
Ensure sure to handle your food safely and avoid any food that may be considered unsafe. Food production and preparation methods can cause food poisoning.
Use chopping/cutting boards that are smooth, hard and non-porous and clean it with soap and hot water before and after each use.
Be cautious of seafood e.g periwinkles – some persons like to cook with shells in soups like afang soup and suck out contents while eating. Ensure it was washed and cooked properly.
Wash the kitchen sink, dishcloths and sponges in hot water weekly.
Be careful of hotdogs and ground beef. Also, raw unwashed fruits and vegetables. Wash these food items with salty water and/or vinegar. Washing fruit and vegetables in vinegar is a good way to remove potential bacteria. Use a solution of three parts water and one part vinegar. Plain water is also effective at removing most bacteria. Vinegar will not make produce last longer.
What you can eat and avoid when you have food poisoning?
Stop solids foods and allow episodes of vomiting and diarrhoea to pass. Consume easily digestible foods that are not spicy or salty (bland meals). Ensure that they are low-fat foods too.
For example, are; plain boiled rice or ricemeal like “tuwo” with no spices, bananas, oatmeal, boiled vegetables, boiled potatoes, ginger ale (brewed drink from ginger.
Avoid alcohol (see benefits of avoiding alcohol), caffeine-containing foods and drinks, dairy products, cheese, highly seasoned or spicy foods, fried foods and foods with high sugar content.
When do you seek the doctor?
I would suggest immediately, especially when vomiting and nausea last more than 24 hours and if symptoms are accompanied by high fever (above 38 degrees Celsius) also if diarrhoea is severe and contains blood. However, over-the-counter medications like Imodium and Pepto-Bismol can help control diarrhoea and suppress nausea. Before using medications, check with your doctor. Through vomiting and diarrhoea, the body attempts to rid the system of the toxin.
Also, using these medications could mask the severity of the illness and cause you to delay seeking expert treatment.
How does food poisoning affect the human body?
Due to the vomiting and diarrhoea, there’s a quick loss of energy and electrolytes. This can cause episodes of dizziness. Those with food poisoning need to get plenty of rest of course after seeking first aid and/or medical assistance.