How To Diagnose And Treat Food Poisoning
There are 76 million cases of food poisoning each year in the U.S. Unsafe cooking and food handling conditions could make you the next victim. Learn the signs and symptoms of the four most common culprits and how to diagnose and treat them. Just a few questions and a little extra time in the kitchen could save you from a bad case of food poisoning.
Step 1: Identify The Culprits
The four most common culprits of foodborne illnesses are the Norwalk-like virus, Hepatitis-A virus, E. coli bacteria and Salmonella bacteria. The most common modes of contamination are through undercooked meat, seafood and poultry, expired dairy or meat products, unsanitary living conditions and unsanitary restroom practices.
The incubation periods for these four culprits are as follows:
Norwalk-like virus: 1-2 days
Hepatitis-A virus: 15-50 days
E. coli bacteria: 1-8 days
Salmonella bacteria: 1-5 days
Sufferers should take into account incubation periods to help their doctor trace the illness back to a particular food or event where contamination could have taken place.
Step 2: Symptoms
Norwalk-like virus may present with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache and mild fever. Hepatitis-A virus may present with fever, nausea, discomfort and jaundice. E. coli bacteria may present with bloody or watery diarrhea, cramps, fever and dysentery. Salmonella bacteria may present with diarrhea, abdominal pain, chills, fever, vomiting and dehydration.
Step 3: Diagnosing
Think about what you have eaten or done in the past two weeks. Then answer YES or NO to the following questions:
1. Have you recently been on a cruise?
2. Have you recently washed your hands in untreated water?
3. Have you recently handled food after using the restroom?
4. Have you recently eaten undercooked, or raw shellfish?
5. Have you recently eaten rare, or medium rare beef?
6. Have you recently eaten raw, or undercooked chicken?
7. Have you recently eaten soft-boiled, or "runny" eggs?
8. Have you recently drunk raw, or expired milk?
9. Have you recently eaten unwashed fruits or vegetables?
If you answered YES to any of these questions, you may have been exposed to one of the four common illnesses.
Step 4: Treatment
In most cases, adequate hydration and plenty of bed rest is all you'll need to overcome the illness. A healthy human can usually pass the illness in 3-10 days. However, those with weakened immune systems, the very young and the very old may need to see a doctor for further treatment. A little common sense will keep you safe and healthy.