Generally defined, food poisoning is a bad reaction to either water or food that has been improperly cooked, stored, or handled, with some of the most common contaminants being E. coli, salmonella, Campylobacter, and more. Those who suffer food poisoning tend to experience issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps.
Some of the most common symptoms of food poisoning include the following:
- General weakness
- Abdominal cramps
The symptoms by themselves tend to lead to the overall diagnosis of food poisoning, especially if there is a history of someone who ate with you that also became sick. Doctors who want to pinpoint the exact cause of the food poisoning will typically ask you to provide a stool sample, which they will then examine in a laboratory.
Furthermore, they may also want to take a sample of your blood to be tested, as well as any of the actual food that you may have consumed, which they can culture by placing a sample of it on a special material that will encourage organisms that may be inside it to grow so that they can be positively identified.
In order to help prevent food poisoning, you can take the following steps:
- Examine all of your food carefully, buy items before their expiration date, make sure cans are not dented/bulging, and make sure food packages are tightly sealed
- Be cautious when purchasing dairy, shellfish, etc.
- Purchase foods only from reliable sources
- Avoid foods, like mayonnaise, that contain raw eggs
- Never eat mushrooms unless they are sold by a reliable source
- Store everything properly
- Either refrigerate or freeze all of your perishable food items as soon as possible
- Make sure that your refrigerator and freezer are always operating at the proper temperatures at all times
- Store all food items according to their specific instructions
- Thaw all food out in the refrigerator in order to prevent bacteria from growing
- Store all nonperishable food items in an area that is both cool and dry
- Keep all of your cooking utensils and cooking surfaces as clean as possible
- Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after cooking
- Rinse all fruits and vegetables
- Use a smooth cutting board, ensuring that you clean it with soap and water before and after each use
- Sterilize all washcloths and sponges in hot water, as well as sanitizing the sink with a cleaning solution
- Cook all food thoroughly
- When cooking any meat, use a meat thermometer to ensure that all food is thoroughly cooked
- Serve all food immediately after cooking it
When Should a Doctor Be Called?
A doctor should be called if food poisoning is suspected in the following individuals:
- Those with impaired immune systems
- Pregnant women
- Elderly individuals
- Young children