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April 20, 2018  |  Login
 
Food Poisoning
 
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

One of the most unpleasant and certainly potentially dangerous conditions is food poisoning. A person's body reacts to toxins produced by bacteria that contaminate food. The most common types of food poisoning result from the bacteria of salmonella, campylobacter, and staphylococcus.

Symptoms range from nausea, overall body weakness, fever, and abdominal cramps to violent episodes of vomiting and diarrhea as the body tries to rid itself of the contaminated food.

Most cases of food poisoning can be avoided. Food poisoning occurs as a result of improper handling, storing, or cooking of food. That is why it is important for people to always wash their hands thoroughly with soap before eating and especially before preparing a meal.

It is important to refrigerate foods like mayonnaise, egg salad, potato salads, rice puddings, and fried rice. These foods can be easily contaminated. Another common mistake is not to cook foods thoroughly and at high-enough temperatures. This is especially true with meats.

Follow the old adage in deciding whether or not to eat leftovers: "When in doubt, throw it out."

Food poisoning can also occur from eating plants that contain toxic chemicals (certain types of mushrooms) or foods contaminated with chemicals (e.g., heavy metals like lead). If you suspect that your child has eaten a poisonous plant, seek medical attention immediately.

Fortunately, most cases of food poisoning are short-lived, and your appetite will return within one to two days. However, head to the emergency room if you or your child has a medical condition that impairs the immune system (e.g., HIV, hepatitis) or displays any of these severe symptoms:

  • Violent vomiting
  • A fever exceeding 102 degrees F
  • Vision problems
  • Severe diarrhea that lasts more than one day or contains blood
  • Trouble breathing or talking
  • Dehydration
 
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