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Food Poisoning

(Foodborne Disease; Foodborne Infection)

Definition

Food poisoning is a disease that is carried or transmitted to humans by contaminated foods or beverages.
Gastrointestinal System
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Causes

Food poisoning is caused by substances in foods or beverages, including:

Risk Factors

Infants and the elderly are at increased risk for food poisoning. Other factors that increase your chances of getting food poisoning include:

Symptoms

After you consume the contaminated food or beverage, there is a delay before symptoms arise. This delay is called an incubation period. It can last hours or weeks. Symptoms include:

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. If you have some of the food that you think made you sick, you may be asked to bring it in to be tested.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

Treatment

Most types of food poisoning improve in 12-48 hours. There aren't many treatments available to speed your recovery from food poisoning.
Treatments include:

Fluids

Drink plenty of fluids. If you are severely ill, you may need IV fluids.

Antibiotics

Some types of bacterial food poisoning can be treated with antibiotics.

Self-care

This includes the following:
  • Take acetaminophen for fever, aches, and pains.
  • Start by drinking only clear liquids or sucking on ice chips. Then, try eating soft, bland foods if you can do so without vomiting.
  • If consuming milk products worsens symptoms, avoid them for several days.
  • Check with your doctor before you use antidiarrheal medications.

Antitoxin

If you have botulism poisoning, there is an antitoxin you can take.

Prevention

To help prevent food poisoning:

RESOURCES

American Gastroenterological Association http://www.gastro.org

Gateway to Government Information About Food Safety http://www.foodsafety.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Association of Gastroenterology http://www.cag-acg.org

Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education http://www.canfightbac.org

References

Food poisoning. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/food-poisoning.html. Updated April 2014. Accessed December 22, 2014.

Food poisoning. FoodSafety.gov website. Available at: http://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/index.html. Accessed December 22, 2014.

Food poisoning. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/kid/ill%5Finjure/sick/food%5Fpoisoning.html. Updated March 2012. Accessed December 22, 2014.

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