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Food Poisoning - Types, Signs & Diagnosis

People prefer junk food because they find it enticing, and it is growing more and more popular. While it is important to pamper your taste buds every once in a while, it is also critical to consume food from a sterile environment. Failure to do so can result in major health issues. Food poisoning is one such sickness brought on by consuming contaminated food. Gastroenteritis, which is caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites in our diet, is a major cause of this sickness. Let us understand its different types, symptoms, and preventions. 

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Symptoms of Food Poisoning

The symptoms of food poisoning depend on the source of the infection. Moreover, the duration it might take until the symptoms surface also depends on the same. It can usually range from one hour to 28 days. However, some common distressing symptoms of food poisoning include the following:

  • Abdominal Cramps

  • Diarrhoea

  • Vomiting

  • Loss of Appetite

  • Fever

  • Weakness

  • Nausea

  • Headaches

If the illness is untreated within time, the symptoms can get severe and life-threatening, such as -

  • Diarrhoea that is persistent for three or more days

  • High fever (more than 101.5°F)

  • Difficulty in speaking or seeing

  • Severe dehydration includes dry mouth, passing little to no urine, and difficulty in digesting fluids or any other food.

  • Bloody urine

You must get in touch with your doctor immediately if you are experiencing these symptoms. Make sure you get the right medical attention at the start of the illness before it gets serious.

Causes of Food Poisoning

As stated earlier, eating contaminated or toxic food that has bacteria, viruses, or parasites breeding on it can lead to food poisoning. We have discussed these in detail below.

 

Bacteria

  • One of the significant causes of food poisoning is due to bacteria.

  • Salmonella is a common bacterium leading to severe food poisoning cases.

  • Besides, Campylobacter and C. Botulinum are other bacteria that can cause this illness.

Parasites

  • Food poisoning due to parasites is not as common as bacterial infections. However, parasites leading to food infection can be life-threatening.

  • Toxoplasma is a parasite known to cause the illness. It is usually found in cat litter boxes and said to live in our digestive tract.

  • The parasite can go undetected for years and is known to weaken the immune system. It also poses a serious risk to pregnant women.

Viruses

  • Viruses can cause food poisoning as well. Norovirus (also known as Norwalk Virus) is known to cause the illness in millions annually. In extreme cases, it can be fatal.

  • Sapovirus, Rotavirus, and Astrovirus have similar symptoms but are less common.

  • Besides, Hepatitis A virus is a severe health condition that can be transmitted via food.

 

Along with what leads to food poisoning, it is essential to understand the risk factors of the illness. For that, you need to understand how food is contaminated, which can cause severe cases of food poisoning.

What Causes Food Contamination?

Everything we consume has some pathogens on it. However, what kills these deadly pathogens is the heat. In other words, cooking and heating your food before consuming it is essential. Consuming raw or unwashed food items is a common source of food poisoning. On the other hand, faecal matters can occasionally contaminate your food. It is commonly due to the unhygienic personal habits of the individual preparing your recipe.

Food items such as meat, eggs, and dairy products are usually contaminated. Moreover, the water we drink includes several organisms that lead to severe health conditions. Because of these things, people are often exposed to contracting food poisoning. Here’s a brief of who is at risk for this illness.

Who is at Risk for Food Poisoning?

We mentioned earlier that anyone can contract food poisoning. However, the degree to which the infection can affect varies from individual to individual. Although you are bound to come down with food poisoning at some point, some people are at a higher risk of contracting this illness. These include -

  • People with a weak immunity system or auto-immune disease

  • Pregnant women

  • Older citizens due to weak immunity

  • Young children with an underdeveloped immune system

It goes without saying that if you or anyone you know is experiencing discomfort due to food poisoning, get medical guidance as soon as possible. Keep reading to know how food poisoning is diagnosed.

Diagnosis of Food Poisoning

Doctors can diagnose the type of food poisoning based on the symptoms the patient suffers. However, in extreme cases, the doctor may ask to submit stool samples and tests on food consumed. This helps them examine and understand what caused the food poisoning. Besides, a urine test is conducted to know whether the patient is dehydrated due to food poisoning.

Treatment for Food Poisoning

Most cases of food poisoning are resolved within three to five days of home treatments. It is imperative to stay hydrated enough if you are suffering from food poisoning. Increase fluid intakes such as sports drinks that are high in electrolytes. You can also drink fruit juices and coconut water as it helps restore your carbohydrates in the body.

It is recommended to avoid caffeine as it may further distress your digestive tract. You can switch to decaffeinated drinks such as soothing herbal teas. You can take an over-the-counter medication such as Imodium and Pepto-Bismol to suppress nausea and diarrhoea. However, consult your doctor before taking any kind of medicine. Besides, these tactics only mask the illness and do not cure it. So, appropriate medical attention is needed before it gets severe.

Food poisoning can also need hydration with intravenous (IV) fluids, which may require hospitalisation. In extreme cases, the patient may need longer hospitalisation for complete recovery.

Besides seeking treatment, there are a few dietary things to keep in mind when suffering from food poisoning. Here’s what you can and cannot eat if you have the said illness.

What you can eat?

It is recommended to avoid eating any solid food until the vomiting and diarrhoea stops. You can cut to a laid back diet that is easy to digest, bland and contains low fats. These usually include -

  • Saltine crackers

  • Gelatin

  • Bananas

  • Rice

  • Oatmeal

  • Chicken broth

  • Bland potatoes

  • Boiled vegetables

  • Toast

  • Soda without caffeine (such as ginger ale or root beer)

  • Diluted fruit juices

  • Sport drinks

What you cannot eat?

It is essential to avoid food items that can cause digestive distress, even after a few days of feeling better. These include -

  • Dairy products, especially milk and cheeses

  • Fatty foods

  • Highly seasoned foods

  • Food items with a high sugar content

  • Spicy foods

  • Fried foods

  • Caffeine products

  • Alcohol

  • Nicotine

We know that food poisoning is very discomforting. However, most people recover from the illness within 48 hours.

Prevention of Food Poisoning

One of the best ways to prevent/avoid food poisoning is to consume food from hygienic places. Some recipes are bound to cause this illness due to the way they are prepared or cooked. Products such as meat, eggs, and fishes have infectious pathogens that are killed when cooking.

However, if these products are consumed raw or not cooked properly, they can lead to food poisoning and other health concerns. Besides, the person cooking your food should practice good personal hygiene. It eliminates the risk of food contamination. Wash the fruits and vegetables properly before consuming them.

Conclusion

Food poisoning is common but needs proper medical attention for recovery. If the illness is neglected for a longer duration, it can lead to some serious health concerns that may require prolonged hospitalisation for recovery. The expenses for the same can take a hit on your savings.

While you take precautions to avoid food poisoning, also ensure that you have adequate health insurance cover to take care of your expenses in extreme scenarios. No illness should be taken lightly, no matter how common it is.

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