Food poisoning is an unpleasant disease that usually results from the consumption of contaminated food. Common pathogens which cause food poisoning include E. Coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter which are bacteria as well as viruses such as Norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug. In most instances, symptoms will come on within a few hours but it can take up to 3 days with most people recovering well within a week and require no hospitalization.

What are the symptoms of food poisoning?

Symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Fever (high temperature of 38oC or above)
  • Vomiting (being sick)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling generally unwell

As a result of vomiting, diarrhoea and loss of appetite (which leads to reduced oral intake) dehydration may ensue and as a result, you must rehydrate during the illness.

How can you get food poisoning?

The main source of food poisoning is through contaminated food with germs, the usual culprits being dairy products, poultry and meat. This can happen if food:

  • Isn’t stored correctly; for example, it’s not frozen or chilled.
  • Is handled by someone who is ill.
  • Is handled by someone who does not practice proper hand hygiene.
  • Isn’t cooked thoroughly and some instances not reheated well.
  • Eaten after it’s expiry date.

How do you treat food poisoning?

Most of the time your body can deal with food poisoning and it will go away on its own; hence you should wait for the illness to run its course. The most important thing is to make sure you stay well hydrated.

  • Stay at home and rest.
  • Replace fluids lost by drinking water – you may take regular sips if you feel sick.
  • Eat when you feel able to; avoid any food and drinks which may make your symptoms worse. These include fizzy drinks, alcohol, spicy and fatty food.
  • You may take paracetamol (links to a future article) to alleviate discomfort and fever – ALWAYS check the drug leaflet to make sure you take the right dosage.
  • DO NOT give aspirin to children under 16.

You should stay off school or work until the symptoms have stopped for 48 hours. When you are symptomatic is when you’re most infectious.

If you find that your symptoms are prolonged or severe or you are worried, you should speak to a doctor. Speak to a GP on tabib.mt within minutes.

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