How to handle Food Poisoning
What is food poisoning?
Food poisoning is a condition caused by the consumption of contaminated food, bacteria, viruses and parasites in infected food, or toxins in food such as poisonous mushrooms. Causative microbes, including salmonella and E. coli, make food poisoning contagious through contact with vomit or feces.
Symptoms of food poisoning:
- Diarrhoea – sometimes containing blood
- Stomach cramps
Food poisoning prevention:
Remember the Four Cs
- Cleaning (sterilized work surfaces and utensils will help kill harmful bacteria and viruses)
- Cooking (thorough cooking will destroy bacteria)
- Chilling (the correct refrigeration temperature will stop bacteria growing and multiplying)
- Cross-contamination (when germs are transferred from foods to foods – directly, by dripping onto or touching, or indirectly from hands or kitchen utensils)
Hygiene and habits
Wash your hands regularly
Frequent handwashing – especially after going to the toilet, before preparing food, and before and after eating – will improve your overall hand hygiene and help stop the spread of food poisoning to you and your loved ones.
Food poisoning treatment:
Rest at home
Most cases of food poisoning are fairly mild and will clear up within a few days. In the meantime, the best thing that you can do for yourself or your sick child is to ensure that the patient gets plenty of bed rest.
Stay hydrated and eat when you can
One of the key risks associated with food poisoning is the danger of dehydration. Try to maintain your fluid levels by regularly sipping small quantities of bottled or boiled water. Your pharmacist may advise that you take an oral rehydration solution, as this will replace some of the key glucose, salt and minerals lost during the infection. As soon as your appetite returns, you should try to eat small, light meals of soft, plain foods such as rice or bread.
Seek medical attention if necessary
Generally speaking, having food poisoning does not mean that you need to visit your doctor. However, there are certain circumstances where this becomes essential. You may need to do so if symptoms persist after a few days, if you are unable to drink water, or if you are showing signs of severe dehydration (e.g. you feel confused, your heart is beating faster than normal and you are not passing urine). A doctor’s appointment is also advisable if you fall into a high-risk category because you are pregnant, have a weakened immune system, have an underlying medical condition or are over 60 years of age. Babies and young children are also considered high risk.
Washing your hands quickly before preparing food is enough to keep you safe.
No. You should wash your hands properly at key moments throughout the day; before eating (breakfast, lunch and dinner), after using the bathroom and when bathing.
You can tell when food has gone off because it looks or smells bad.
Sometimes you can tell if food is spoiled – but not always. Germs are invisible. Don’t risk it. If in doubt, throw the food away.