Food Poisoning (cont.)
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
In this Article
- Food poisoning facts
- What is food poisoning?
- What are the types of food poisoning?
- What are the causes of food poisoning?
- Short incubation or less than 16 to 24 hours
- Intermediate incubation from about 1 to 3 days
- Long incubation 3 to 5 days
- Very long incubation up to a month
- What are the signs and symptoms of food poisoning?
- Are food poisoning and stomach flu the same thing?
- When should the doctor be called for food poisoning?
- How is food poisoning diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for food poisoning?
- Are there any home remedies for food Poisoning?
- How long does food poisoning last?
- What are the complications of food poisoning?
- How can food poisoning be prevented?
- What is the prognosis for food poisoning?
- Summer Food Safety FAQs
- Find a local Doctor in your town
How long does food poisoning last?
Most cases of food poisoning last about 1 to 2 days and symptoms resolve on their own. If symptoms persist for longer than that, the affected person should contact their health care professional.
Cyclospora infections may be difficult to detect and diarrhea may last for weeks. Health care professionals may consider this parasite as the potential cause of food poisoning in patients with prolonged symptoms.
What are the complications of food poisoning?
The first and most important complication of food poisoning is dehydration. Food poisoning can cause significant loss of body water and changes in the electrolyte levels in the blood.
If the affected individual has underlying medical conditions requiring medication, persistent vomiting may make it difficult to swallow and digest those medications.
Other complications of food poisoning are specific to the type of infection. Some are listed in the causes of food poisoning such as HUS, TTP, or encephalopathy.
How can food poisoning be prevented?
Prevention of food borne illness begins at home with proper food preparation technique.
- Foods should be cooked thoroughly. This especially applies to eggs, poultry, and meat. A meat thermometer can be used to measure the internal temperature of a meat dish.
- Leftovers should be refrigerated immediately so that bacteria and viruses do not have time to start growing.
- Wash fruits and vegetables well before eating. This removes dirt, pesticides, chemicals, or other infectious agents used on, or exposed to, the foods in the fields or storage facilities.
- Wash hands routinely before and after handling food will help prevent the spread of infection.
- Clean counters and other areas that are used to clean, prepare, and assemble foods thoroughly. Cross contamination of food is common and can cause food poisonings. For example, a cutting board and knife used to cut raw chicken should be washed thoroughly before cutting up fruit and vegetables to prevent the spread of Salmonella.
- In restaurants, meals are prepared by others; health inspectors check restaurants routinely and their reports on sanitary practices are usually available online. Make certain that the food ordered is thoroughly cooked, especially meats such hamburger.
- Pregnant women and people who have compromised immune systems, for example, those undergoing chemotherapy or are taking medication such as prednisone, should avoid eating soft cheeses like camembert, brie, blue, and feta because of the risk of contracting Listeria. In the Listeria outbreak of 2011 in the US, people should be advised to avoid eating cantaloupes from the suspected source, and to be very sure all fruits and vegetables are cleaned thoroughly prior to eating, no matter the source.
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