Food poisoning is quite common and may even be fatal in extreme cases. Infection with food borne organisms might not show any symptoms or might manifest as abdominal discomfort or bloody diarrhea and severe dehydration. Based on the kind of infection, food poisoning may even lead to death. Over 250 different types of diseases might lead to food poisoning. Few of the common diseases are infections due to bacteria like salmonella, campylobacter, E. coli, botulism, norovirus and listeria.
Symptoms may vary from one patient to another, depending on the source of infection. These usually start within 1 to 2 days of eating contaminated food, however, they may also be felt anywhere between a few hours to several weeks later. Symptoms are:
The causative factor behind food poisoning is not known in 4 out of 5 cases. However, when the cause is detected, it is usually one of these:
Acute diarrhea may be indicative of campylobacter. Ingestion of infected water, milk or food may transmit campylobacter. Contact with infected animals may spread it as well. It may be serious if you are immunocompromised. Rarely additional complications may be there as well like nervous system problems and reactive arthritis. These problems usually start when the diarrhea stops. Check with your doctor if you might have been affected by a campylobacter infection. Stool diagnosis can show the presence of bacteria. If an infection is found, recovery starts without treatment and the symptoms start going away within 5 days. Drink a lot of liquids to prevent dehydration. Antibiotics can be taken (like erythromycin) at the onset of the infection for reducing the duration of sickness.
Salmonella infection might lead to reactive arthritis in some people. Most recover completely after a salmonella infection, even though the recovery period may be of a few months. Urinating pain, joint pain and eye irritation are all symptoms. The pain in joints might turn into arthritis. Rarely can salmonella be fatal. Fatality chances are higher in the elderly, infants and those who are immunocompromised.
Feces are generally responsible for the spread of shigella, which is a bacteria. It leads to dysentery, an intestinal infection that results in severe diarrhea. It generally is a tropical disease and is more common in crowded places where interpersonal and personal hygiene suffers. Consult your doctor if you think that there has been a shigella exposure. The stools can be tested to check for the presence of this bacteria. There isn’t necessity for specialized treatment in mild cases of shigella infection. Drinking a lot of fluids is required to avoid dehydration. Antibiotics and preventive steps for dehydration might be needed in severe cases. Infected stools may transmit the bacteria to other people if hygiene is poor. Washing hands thoroughly is necessary after changing diapers or using the washroom to restrict spreading the bacteria.
Food poisoning is usually diagnosed on the basis of medical history, which includes the time duration for which the patient is experiencing symptoms and specific foods he/she has eaten. A doctor can also conduct a physical examination, to study the signs of dehydration. After this, a doctor may refer to some diagnostic tests, such as a blood or stool test to determine the root cause of food poisoning.
Treatment of food poisoning is dependent on the origin of infection. It includes:
The best medicine for the treatment of food poisoning is an oral rehydration solution (ORS). In food poisoning, there is a loss of water and fluid from the body which leads to dehydration. Thus, ORS solution helps in restoring the lost fluids in the body. If the patient suffers from extreme dehydration, he/she should be administered with saline water and glucose at the health care center.
Antidiarrheal medicines like loperamide, Imotil, bismuth subsalicylate are also given to patients. Those who suffer from vomiting and nausea are given anti-vomiting drugs such as chlorpromazine and metoclopramide.
The doctors may also prescribe antibiotics for the treatment against bacterial or viral infection if food poisoning is intense. Probiotics like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus are also given to restore the balance of good bacteria in the intestine.
A person who has food poisoning usually recovers on its own after 48 hours of being symptomatic. In order to feel well and prevent dehydration during the recovery period, one has to take the following steps: