If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you’re not alone: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 48 million Americans get sick from a foodborne illness each year.
In today’s blog post, let’s dig a little deeper into food poisoning.
To start, there are more than 250 kinds of disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can contaminate your food and make you sick. Harmful toxins and chemicals may also lead to food poisoning.
Although certain foods are often associated with food poisoning — like bad shellfish or undercooked chicken — it can actually come from just about anything you eat. It doesn’t have to be food that is spoiled or rotten. It may even come from good food that was cooked improperly or handled poorly.
Typically, food poisoning hits within a few hours of eating contaminated food.
Some foodborne illnesses, though, are latent, which means they have to reproduce in your system before symptoms begin. As an example, the hepatitis A virus can take 15 to 50 days before affecting you.
The strain of germs ingested determines the severity of your symptoms and how long it lasts. The strength of your immune system also impacts how you fight it off. Everyone reacts differently to food poisoning, so even if you and your family eat the same meal, you all may react differently.
For healthy people, food poisoning usually passes within 12 to 48 hours. However, depending on the specific pathogen and your body’s reaction to it, you can be ill for up to 10 days. Although most food poisoning resolves itself, some illnesses require antibiotics. If your symptoms last longer than two days, it’s important to talk to your primary care physician.
Food poisoning often develops quickly and without warning.
Your symptoms may even be dangerous. The CDC estimates that 128,000 people are hospitalized each year from foodborne illnesses, with 3,000 people dying because of them.
The most common signs of food poisoning include:
- Stomach pain and/or cramping
- Weakness and fatigue
These symptoms, while miserable, are simply your body’s way of expelling toxins in an effort to renew your health. As you’re recovering, it’s important to hydrate with electrolytes and restore liquids lost from vomiting and diarrhea. It’s also helpful to eat small amounts of bland food if possible. Stick with a BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Other options include broth, oatmeal, and chicken noodle soup.
If your nausea becomes so problematic that you can’t keep anything down, it’s important to seek medical help right away. IV fluids can be administered to help you avoid dehydration. There are other medications your doctor may prescribe as well.
Fortunately, there is a simple four-step approach to protect yourself from food poisoning.
- Clean your hands and cooking surfaces frequently.
- Keep raw meat, seafood, and eggs separate from other foods in both your shopping basket and your refrigerator.
- Ensure that you’re cooking your foods to the right temperature. Fish should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit; ground meats should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit; and poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Refrigerate perishable food within two hours. If it’s a hot day, keep them out for less than one hour when possible.