Q&A Food Poisoning

By Erin Ooi, RPh

 

Q: What is Food Poisoning?
A: Food poisoning, also called food-borne illness, is illness caused by eating contaminated food. Infectious organisms, including bacteria, viruses and parasites, or their toxins, are the most common causes of food poisoning.

 

Q: What are the symptoms of Food Poisoning?

A: The main symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea (may contain blood or mucus), stomach cramps, loss of appetite, lack of energy and weakness, fever. The symptoms can start within hours after eating contaminated food.

Q: What are the causes of Food Poisoning?

A: In most cases of food poisoning, the food is contaminated by bacteria, such as Salmonella or Escherichia coli, or a virus, such as the Norovirus.

Q: How is food contaminated?

A: Food can be contaminated at any stage during production, processing or cooking, such as not thorough cooking (particularly meat), improper storage conditions, or unhygienic food handling process. Food particularly susceptible to contamination include raw meat and poultry, raw eggs, raw shellfish, unpasteurised milk and ready-to-eat food, such as cooked sliced meats, soft cheeses and pre-packed salads.

 

Q: What should I do when having Food Poisoning?

A: You should rest and drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Eat when you feel up to it, but try small, light meals at first and stick to bland foods until you begin to feel better. Light food such as porridge, rice, soup broth, crackers and bananas are acceptable.

Q: What Over-the-Counter preparations can I take to ease the symptoms?

A: Oral Rehydration Salts(ORS) is recommended to prevent dehydration. Also, you may take Activated Charcoal. Probiotics may help with the diarrhoea symptoms too. You may consult your pharmacist on the recommended dosage. However, for Food Poisoning accompanied with fever, or if you are taking any other medicines for long term, kindly consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking any Over-the-Counter preparations.

Q: When should I consult the doctor?

A: You should contact your GP if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Frequent episodes of vomiting and inability to keep liquids down;
  • Bloody vomit or stools;
  • Diarrhoea for more than three days;
  • Extreme pain or severe abdominal cramping;
  • High fever;
  • Symptoms do not improve after a few days;
  • Signs or symptoms of dehydration — excessive thirst, dry mouth, little or no urination, severe weakness, dizziness, or light-headedness;
  • Neurological symptoms such as blurry vision, muscle weakness and tingling in the arms
  • Pregnant;
  • Over 60 years-old;
  • Have underlying medical condition, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), heart valve disease, diabetes or kidney disease;
  • Weak immune system or receiving any medical treatment.

 

References:

1. Food poisoning [Internet]. National Health Services. 2015 [cited 16 June 2017]. Available from: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Food-poisoning/Pages/Introduction.aspx
2. Food poisoning [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. 2014 [cited 16 June 2017]. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-poisoning/basics/definition/con-20031705
3. Infectious diarr hea: Can probiotics help against diarrhea? [Internet]. PubMed Health. 2016 [cited 16 June 2017]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0088733/