Food Poisoning: What is it and what are its types?
Food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, is an infection or irritation in the digestive tract that spreads through food or drinks. In particular, viruses, bacteria and parasites are the cause of most food poisoning. Harmful chemicals can also cause food poisoning. Food poisoning is often acute, meaning it happens suddenly and lasts a short time. But in some cases, food poisoning can last longer or lead to serious complications.
What is Food Poisoning?
Foodborne illnesses, also called food poisoning, refer to complications that occur as a result of eating contaminated, spoiled or poisoned food. Food poisoning occurs when contaminated food is consumed. Contaminated food is a term used for foods that are infected with poisonous organisms such as bacteria, fungi, parasites or viruses. Consuming foods that contain toxins, chemicals or infectious agents (such as bacteria, viruses, parasites) may cause negative symptoms in the body. When a contaminated food is consumed, the body reacts to cleanse the toxins. The symptoms that occur express these reactions.
What are the symptoms of food poisoning?
Common symptoms of food poisoning include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, headache. As a result of serious poisoning, symptoms may include blurred vision, headache, paralysis, tingling or numbness of the skin. If a person experiences nervous system symptoms, they should go to a health institution as soon as possible. Symptoms of food poisoning include:
- Stomache ache
- bloody diarrhea
- dry throat
Symptoms vary depending on which organ system is involved. While the onset of symptoms may occur within the same day, it may also take up to several weeks. Food poisoning is caused by bacteria, viruses or toxins in consumed foods. The duration of symptoms depending on the microorganism causing the poisoning is as follows:
- In food poisoning caused by Campylobacter, stomach symptoms appear within 2 to 5 days and last for 2-10 days.
- In poisoning caused by Listeria, symptoms appear within approximately 3 weeks.
- In poisoning caused by norovirus and rotavirus, symptoms begin approximately 24-48 hours after exposure.
- In poisoning caused by coli, symptoms start especially in the stomach and appear within 3-4 days.
How Is Food Poisoning Diagnosed?
Doctors usually diagnose food poisoning based on symptoms. If symptoms are mild and last only a short time, tests are usually not needed. However, if the person’s symptoms of poisoning are serious, stool tests and blood tests should be requested in addition to medical history and physical examination. During the physical exam, the doctor may check blood pressure and pulse for signs of dehydration. If necessary, blood in the stool can be checked. Blood in the stool may be a sign of an infection with bacteria or parasites. Stool tests can indicate the presence of viruses, bacteria and parasites.
What are the Types of Food Poisoning?
Bacteria are tiny organisms that can cause infection or disease. Bacteria can enter the body through contaminated food or water. Bacteria multiply rapidly when the temperature of food is between 40 and 140 degrees. Apart from bacteria, viruses are also a cause of foodborne poisoning. Common viruses that cause food poisoning include norovirus and hepatitis A. Parasites are microorganisms that live inside other organisms. Parasites can enter the body through food or water and settle in the digestive tract. Microorganisms that cause food poisoning are:
- coli: Disease-causing E. coli is often spread during the slaughtering process of animals, can pass into raw milk in dairies, and even contaminate nearby vegetable or fruit crops. Undercooked meat and contaminated raw vegetables are the main sources of E. coli poisoning, along with person-to-person contact in homes and child care centers.
- Listeria (Listeriosis): The bacteria Listeria monocytogenes can cause a serious infection called Listeriosis, which mostly affects newborn babies, pregnant women, and adults with significantly weakened immune systems. Listeria can be found in soil and water and can also be carried by healthy livestock. Uncooked (or undercooked) meats and vegetables, as well as some foods processed before packaging, can carry this organism.
- Norovirus: Norovirus refers to a group of viruses found primarily in the feces or vomit of infected people. Norovirus is highly contagious but not fatal and usually goes away after a day or two. Infected food service workers who do not wash their hands after using the bathroom and then handle food or touch kitchen surfaces often spread the disease.
- Salmonella: Salmonella can be found on raw chicken or eggs, spoiled or improperly processed milk, poultry, pork, or beef. Salmonellosis is a more serious but less common form that can cause typhoid fever, which can be fatal. Most people recover within four to seven days or more without treatment, but if salmonella enters the bloodstream, the disease can be fatal.
What are the Dangerous Consequences of Food Poisoning?
Vomiting and diarrhea, which are the most common causes of food poisoning, can cause significant fluid loss, and diarrhea, as well as nausea and vomiting, can cause dehydration by making it difficult to replace the lost fluid. This can have serious consequences in developing countries where infectious outbreaks cause diarrheal diseases. Also called rapid dehydration in infants and children, low levels of body fluids are also a result of food poisoning. This can cause serious illness in babies. This also applies to adults. In particular, this condition causes nervous system symptoms such as blurred vision, muscle weakness and tingling on the skin, fever, and diarrhea lasting more than three days. Dehydration is a condition that needs to be treated.
Food Poisoning Treatment Methods?
To treat food poisoning caused by microorganisms, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics or medications that target parasites in addition to rehydration solutions. In some cases, doctors may recommend probiotics. There are suggestions that some probiotics may help shorten a bout of diarrhea. But for safety reasons, it is important to contact a doctor before using probiotics or other treatments. Older adults, adults with weakened immune systems, and adults with severe diarrhea or dehydration symptoms can be treated with oral rehydration solutions. Oral rehydration solutions are liquids containing glucose and electrolytes. Some types of infections may require antibiotics. But often antibiotics are not necessary and do not help. The most appropriate type of treatment varies depending on the person’s cause of poisoning, and the poisoning is cured by a procedure decided by the doctor.
What Should Be Done to Avoid Food Poisoning?
Consuming safe food is the most important way to prevent foodborne diseases. If microorganisms get into food that will not be cooked, they can survive and contaminate that food item. Things you can do to prevent food poisoning are:
- You should not consume unpasteurized milk and fruit juices. Pasteurized foods have gone through a process that kills germs.
- Foods, especially red meat, poultry and eggs, must be cooked to the right amount. Cooking these foods all the way through destroys harmful microorganisms.
- Food should be consumed immediately after cooking. Thus, harmful microorganisms do not have time to reproduce.
- Foods that have not been cooked before eating, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, should be rinsed under running tap water.
- Hot foods should be kept hot (60°C) and cold foods should be kept cold (4°C). It is also important to make sure the refrigerator is set to 4°C or lower.
- Cooked foods, fresh fruits and vegetables should be kept away when preparing raw meat and poultry. For this reason, meat, vegetables and fruits should not be cut on the same board.
- Hands should be washed with hot, soapy water before and after preparing food.