It has been reported that approximately six Americans are infected with food poisoning each year according to the Centers for Disease Control. Even though the name makes it sound extremely dangerous, not all cases are fatal or need medical attention and can be healed on its own. To understand how to avoid being sick we must understand the food poisoning causes.
Food poisoning or food borne illness is when we consume food and beverages that may be toxic, contaminated or even spoiled. The symptoms do not go unnoticed and range from diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. The entire experience can be very uneasy for the body to adjust to ask our body is constantly trying to get rid of the toxins that have entered through diarrhea and vomiting as mentioned before. This is a very common illness that people face however the severity can range from mild which can be treated at home to cases which need the patient to be hospitalized.
Food Poisoning Kinds
Now that we have established that an external stimulus causes the infection, we can broadly categorize Food Poisoning Causes into 3 groups to understand how they enter the body and of their characteristics.
Bacteria- being the most common source, when we talk about food poisoning causes by bacteria we associate it with salmonella, E.coli and listeria which are various kinds of food poisoning. As per the documents of CDC, Salmonella is the biggest reason as to the 1,000,000 cases of food poisoning which are accounted for each year out of which 20,000 result in the patient being hospitalized which ultimately leads back to salmonella. There are also various lethal bacteria like Campylobacter and C. Botulinum which enter the body through food sources.
Parasites- as this source is not as common as bacteria, parasites can be extremely dangerous and sometimes lethal. One of the most common types of parasite is toxoplasma which causes food poisoning and is mostly spread from cat litter boxes. The unique thing about parasite food infection is. The parasite enters the body and remains in the digestive tract and goes unnoticed for years. Those who have weakened immune systems like the elderly and pregnant women tend to be open to a greater risk of being affected by the parasite which results in serious side effects.
Viruses- the third kind of food infection source is through a virus. The norovirus is the largest contributor to food poisoning hand cause approximately 19 million patients of food poisoning each year and some cases can also be fatal. Other viruses like Rotavirus, Astrovirus and Sapovirus have similar symptoms but have a milder effect on the body and are also extremely rare. A virus we are all aware of, Hepatitis A can also be passed from food items.
Food Poisoning Types
Once we have established that there are three basic food poisoning causes are from parasites, viruses and bacteria. The food can get contaminated at any point of the process may it be the harvesting, preparing shipping, storing and growing. Another aspect we must know of is cross contamination which becomes one of the main contributors to the contamination of food, this usually happens between raw and ready to eat food items which are not in contact with heat to kill the germs and finished before consumption. Below are mentioned a few types of germs which have their own set of symptoms and the possible carriers of the germs.
This specific germ enters the body through meat, poultry, unpasteurized milk and contaminated water and other food items gets contaminated because of its contact with animal feces. The basic symptoms last for up to 2-5 days.
This usually occurs in home canned food items which are not properly stored or those food items which are kept in warm temperatures for a long duration. The symptoms last for up to 12-72 hours and can be treated at home if proper measures are taken.
Those food items which contain gravy like stews and other meats which are not stored in correct temperatures like the food is chilled slowly or kept on high temperatures for a very long time. The symptoms last for 8-16 hours.
The germs contaminate the food item during the slaughtering process like when beef is contaminated with feces during the slaughtering. It is widely spread through apple cider, beef, unpasteurized milk and alfalfa sprouts. The basic symptoms last for 1-8 days and can heal on its own if patient is properly hydrated.
This is usually spread through ready to eat produce and raw food items when in contact with contaminated water. While growing vegetables or fruits when contaminated water is used it causes the produce to be contaminated hence leading to food poisoning when consumed.
Usually spread through the intake of shellfish and raw food items when in contact with contaminated water. The food can also get contaminated due to the food handler. The symptoms last for up to 28 days and need proper medical attention.
Spread through luncheon meats, hot dogs and processed meats along with unwashed raw produce, unpasteurized milk and can be spread from contaminated water and soil. The symptoms last for up to 9-48 hours.
It is spread through raw shellfish and ready to eat produce which is contaminated by the food handler. The symptoms last for 12-48 hours.
The germ is spread due to the handler and through raw and ready to eat produce. The symptoms last for up to 1-3 days.
Spread widely through raw and contaminated meats, eggs and unpasterirized milk. These are usually spread through the utensils which come in contact with the food items. The symptoms last for up to 1-3 days.
Mostly spread through seafood and ready to eat produce which does not come in contact with any heat to kill the germs. The symptoms last for up to 24-48 hours.
it is spread through meat and prepared food items like cream sauces, salads and pastries which have cream in them. The food item is contaminated through the handler in the form of germs being transmitted through coughing, sneezing or having unhygienic personal conditions. The symptoms last for up to 1-6 hours.
Spread through raw oysters and uncooked seafood items and is contaminated due to the seawater. The symptoms last for 1-7 days.
Food Poisoning Causes & Risk factors
We must know of all the associated risks that come with food poisoning and that each kind of food poisoning comes with its own set of symptoms and ranges in severity. It tends to be most dangerous for those who have weaker immune systems like:
The elderly- as you grow, the immune system becomes weak and cannot fight the germs that enter hence being prone to food poisoning if consume even the slightest or the weakest form.
Pregnant women- as you are expecting and nurturing a child; the mothers immune system becomes weak and cannot fight the germs that have entered. Many food poisoning cases affect the unborn child and cause no damage to the mother which makes food poisoning in expecting mothers to be extremely tricky.
Infants- as their body is still developing, their immune system is extremely weak and has not developed fully.
Patients with chronic disease- those who have chronic diseases like diabetes, AIDS or liver diseases already have a compromised health and immune system thus they are most likely to be infected by the germs.
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As mentioned before, the most important factor doctors look out for in food poisoning is dehydration as our body is losing fluids in the form of diarrhea and vomiting which needs to be replaced before our immune system becomes weak. We must consume enough water and oral rehydration solutions to replace the fluids and provide minerals and vitamins for the body. Sometimes food poisoning leads to serious complications like:
Listeria Monocytogenes- with the basics of listeria food poisoning for an unborn child may be extremely dangerous. It can also lead to a miscarriage due to the stress on the child. If the pregnancy has proceeded for longer. Then it can also lead to premature birth, stillbirth and also any fatal infection to the baby after birth. This becomes tricky because the mother does not experience any dangerous symptoms and the impact is solely on the child.
E.coli- this food poisoning can prove to be extremely dangerous and lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome. Where the lining of the blood vessels near the kidney become weaker which lead to kidney failure.
Food Poisoning Causes – Tests and Diagnosis
Once we are aware that we are suffering from food poisoning and know of the food poisoning causes. We must be now familiar with the tests and diagnosis of food poisoning. We must know duration of the food poisoning and how severe it is before developing a strategy to beat it. As each food poisoning symptoms and severity can vary from person to person. The patient needs to be examined from a doctor. The biggest problem that patients face is dehydration . So the doctor tries to identify if the patient suffering from dehydration as if makes the body weak and slows down the healing process.
With the help of the types of food poisoning mentioned above. We can also self-evaluate the kind of food poisoning that we are suffering from. And know of the related precautions and duration. The doctor can examine the stool and vomit to be sure of the severity of the food poisoning. The stool helps identify the infectious organism present through extensive tests from the laboratory. Many times the food poisoning causes cannot help identify the food poisoning and it goes unnoticed.
Food Poisoning Causes – Prevention
Those who are suffering from food poisoning and those who wish to be safe from food poisoning. Must take the following prevention to be safe from the food poisoning causes. One must wash their hands, utensils and the workspace. As the germs can spread from one utensil to another. And similarly the hands and for that one must ensure that their personal hygiene are met. The food must be kept under perfect conditions; the food must not be too cold or too hot. Certain temperatures need to maintain in order to kill the germs present in the food items. The food which is not being consumed immediately must be stored properly. And kept in the correct temperature in the refrigerator.
Be Careful with these Foods
The food must be stored within an hour to avoid letting the food get contaminated. When trying to defrost any food item, the best way is to remove from the freezer and allow it to reach a lower temperature in the refrigerator and then microwave it to the desired temperature for consumption. When we think the food item is stale or smells odd we must not consume it.
If at a restaurant we feel that the food feels or looks odd. We must ask them to change it and also change the plate. To avoid any form of cross contamination. Many times our body detects through its senses if the food items are contaminated hence we must not avoid them. Certain food items must be checked and be cautious about. Like raw poultry and rare meat, undercooked fish and shellfish like scallops, clams, oysters and mussels.
A variety of soft cheeses like camembert, feta and other unpasteurized cheeses, undercooked luncheon meats, unpasteurized juices, milk and ciders. Undercooked or raw eggs, refrigerated meat spreads along with clover, radish sprouts, raw sprouts and other undercooked eggs. In addition of food items like ice-cream and cookie dough.
The different food poisoning causes help understand about the various food items we should be careful of. The severity and symptoms range from person to person according to their immune system. And the kind of germ that has entered the body.