Food poisoning is produced by bacteria and sometimes viruses or other germs. They can get into the food we eat and the liquids we drink. We cannot taste, smell, or see these germs (at least without a microscope). But even if they are tiny, they can have a significant effect on our bodies.
When the germs that cause it get into our bodies, they can secrete toxins. These toxins are toxic (hence the name “food poisoning”) and can cause diarrhoea and vomiting.
Doctors often use “it” to describe a rapidly developing illness from eating contaminated food. People often have diarrheic or vomit within hours of becoming infected. The decent news is that food poisoning can go away on its own in no time. Most people recover in a few days and have no consequences.
In a small number of cases, it can mean going to the doctor or hospital. When persons need medical treatment for food poisoning, it’s usually because of dehydration. Dehydration is the most severe difficulty of food poisoning.
What remain the signs and symptoms of food poisoning?
How it manifests itself depends on the triggering germ. A person may begin to feel unwell within an hour or two of eating or drinking the contaminated food or liquid. In most cases, the symptoms disappear within 1 to 10 days. In extra cases, symptoms may not appear for several weeks.
Signs that a child has food poisoning include:
- stomach pain and cramps
- headache and general weakness
Rarely, it can cause dizziness, blurred vision, or tingling in the arms. In even rarer cases, the weakness that sometimes accompanies it causes breathing difficulties.
Causes of food poisoning
Once people eat or drink something contaminated with germs, they can get food poisoning. People often get it from animal sources such as meat and poultry, eggs, dairy, and shellfish. But unwashed fruit and vegetables and other raw foods can also be contaminated and make people sick. Even water can cause food poisoning.
Solid and liquid foods can become contaminated at many different points in their preparation, storage and handling. For example:
- The water used to grow produce may be contaminated with animal or human faces (poop).
- In general, meat or poultry can come into contact with germs during processing or transport.
- Food can become infected with bacteria if left at the wrong temperature or stored too long.
- Cooks or other food handlers can contaminate food if they don’t wash their hands properly or use dirty cutting boards or other utensils to prepare food.
People with health problems (such as chronic kidney disease) or a compromised immune system are at higher risk of food poisoning than those in good health.
What germs cause food poisoning?
The germs that most commonly cause food poisoning are:
salmonella. Salmonella bacteria are the leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States. These bacteria are usually introduced into food when it comes in contact with animal faces. The leading causes of salmonella poisoning are the consumption of dairy products, undercooked meat and fresh produce (fruits and vegetables) that have not been washed properly.
- coli (Escherichia coli). E. coli bacteria often find their way into food or water when they contact animal faces. Eating undercook ground beef is the leading cause of E. coli in the United States.
Listeria. These bacteria primarily found in raw dairy products, smoked seafood, and process meats like hot dogs and cold cuts. Listeriosis bacteria can also contaminate fruits and vegetables, although less commonly.
Campylobacter. These bacteria most commonly infect meat and poultry, as well as unpasteurized milk. Campylobacter can also contaminate water. Like other types of bacteria, these bacteria often find their way into food through contact with the faces of infected animals.