Food Poisoning and Why Does it Require Emergency Care?
An average of 80 million cases of food poisoning is reported in the United States every year. Most of the patients, however, do not seek medical care as they don’t consider the condition life-threatening. However, as you will see, food poisoning is a serious condition that should be addressed with urgency.
What is Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning is best described as an illness that occurs from intake of contaminated food and beverages. Contaminated food is the primary cause of food poisoning, and it is categorised into two cases:
Improper Food Handling
Food should be handled with hygiene in mind. It should be grown healthily without the use of toxic fertilisers and other growth enhancers. Additionally, food that is eaten in raw form should be cleaned thoroughly before eating. Finally, perishable foods and drinks should be preserved in refrigerators and thrown out when they go bad.
Failure to handle food properly gives way to accumulation of bacteria, virus, and other pathogens that cause contamination and consequently food poisoning.
Improper Food Preparation
Food preparation also plays a significant role in its safety. The leading cause of concern, in this case, is cooking – germs that cause contamination infests many foods, and the heat generated when preparing them is the best way to kill these microbes and their toxins. Other factors considered during preparation include utensils used – for instance, you should not use the same knife on vegetables and meat as you will transfer germs from one food item to another.
Different foods come with varying guidelines of preparation, and it is recommended to follow these instructions to the letter.
How to Recognize Food Poisoning
Before reviewing the symptoms of food poisoning, it is important to note that certain people are more prone to the condition than others. In particular, children and pregnant women are more susceptible to the disease owing to their weak digestive systems. The elderly and people suffering from compromised immune systems have a higher chance of suffering from the disease due to their weak immunity.
The primary symptom of food poisoning is a stomach ache. It is common for a majority of the victims of food poisoning as the digestive juices react to the pathogens and toxins. However, several other symptoms include:
People suffering from food poisoning will often vomit for periods ranging from several hours to several days depending on the condition’s severity. It occurs when the body tries to get rid of the ingested toxins.
Food poisoning also causes diarrhoea as the body tries to get rid of the ingested toxins. It may be moderate or severe depending on the condition’s severity.
Dehydration is almost inevitable when the patient suffers from vomiting and diarrhoea as the body expels a lot of water.
Symptoms of food poisoning may go beyond the digestive system. For instance, patients often suffer from nausea and headaches. In some cases, patients may experience from chills and complain of fatigue and general weakness.
Why Emergency Care Matters
As explained, many victims of food poisoning ignore the symptoms and associate them with frequent stomach aches. However, although many patients recover without medical care, those suffering from severe cases of the condition are often hospitalised – in some unfortunate cases, severe symptoms take their toll on the body and lead to death.
As such, physicians recommend seeking urgent medical care immediately you observe any of the symptoms above.
Diagnosis of Food Poisoning
A doctor will mainly diagnose for food poisoning by testing the blood, stool and vomit for signs of germs and toxins. Patients are required to liaise with the doctor and provide detailed information of what they ate before experiencing the food poisoning symptoms.
The doctor may also review your medical history especially if the symptoms are not adequately manifested or if you are prone to the condition.
Treating Food Poisoning
Fortunately, food poisoning can be treated effectively if reported early enough. Treatment methods vary depending on the exact cause of the condition.
In moderate cases of food poisoning, the doctor will focus on keeping the patient hydrated – as explained; dehydration is a common symptom of the condition. Hydration may be facilitated by just taking lots of water and non-caffeinated beverages. In severe cases, the physician may fit the patient with an IV system for constant rehydration. Children, however, are treated using over-the-counter electrolyte replacement beverages.
When hydration is not enough, the physician may resort to the use of medicine to boost the body’s immune system against the ingested germs and toxins – this is especially common in cases where symptoms such as headaches, chills, and fatigue are manifest.
In other cases, physicians may be forced to empty the patient’s stomach. It is done to reduce the damage caused by the ingested germs and toxins – in such cases, the patient’s life is usually in danger.