Food-borne illness, more commonly known as food poisoning, is known to affect more than 3 million people in the U.S. every year. It can affect people at any age, anywhere in the country.
Food poisoning occurs when contaminated food or beverages are consumed. Contaminants can include:
The majority of people can recover in a few days, but in some cases, it can take weeks or longer.
Avoiding food-borne illnesses completely isn’t possible, but you can protect your health by recognizing the early warning signs.
Food Poisoning Signs To Watch Out For
After eating contaminated food, the signs of food poisoning can begin to show almost immediately. Many people will notice them within hours of eating; however, it can take days or weeks for food poisoning to affect a person. For example, Staphylococcus aureus will cause symptoms within 1-6 hours while Hepatitis A takes about 28 days.
The most common symptoms associated with food poisoning are:
- Stomach cramps
- Abdominal pain
You may experience one or more of these symptoms if you’ve consumed contaminated food or beverages. Typically, the symptoms of food poisoning will only last a few hours to a few days.
It’s often necessary to take extra precautions to protect against food poisoning while traveling abroad. Your gastrointestinal tract may not be used to certain foods, and some countries don’t require the same food safety standards as the U.S.
When To Seek Help With Food Poisoning
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified over 250 food-borne diseases.1
The vast majority of food poisoning cases are relatively mild and can be treated at home. However, the problem can escalate to the point that a person needs medical assistance. The severity can depend on your general health, age and the type of contaminant that was consumed.
Seek medical help immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Bloody vomit or diarrhea that lasts three or more days
- Fever over 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit
- Blurry vision
- Muscle weakness
- Tingling in extremities
- Severe cramping and pain in the abdominal area
Danger Of Dehydration
The biggest danger connected to food poisoning is dehydration. You can easily become dehydrated if you are vomiting frequently and/or experiencing diarrhea because you are losing more liquids than you are consuming. Young children, the elderly and people with chronic diseases are most at risk for dehydration.
The symptoms include:
- Dry mouth
- Little or no urination
- Excessive thirst
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
Dehydration can become so severe that the person needs intravenous fluids through an IV. Without intervention dehydration can lead to brain swelling, seizures, hypovolemic shock, kidney failure, coma and death.
Some people are more at risk of being adversely affected by food poisoning than others. Extra precautions should be taken for:
- Young children
- Pregnant women
- People with chronic diseases
If you fall into one of these groups it is advisable to avoid raw foods that haven’t been cooked. Cooking can destroy bacteria in or on food before it’s consumed.
Once the situation is under control you can then decide if legal action is needed. Holding a business accountable when they give you food poisoning isn’t about money. It’s about bringing issues to light that help keep others from getting sick.
If you have been affected by E. coli or salmonellosis you should report it to county health authorities. Most states track these severe food-borne illnesses in order to protect the public.
Restaurants, grocers, farmers, harvesters, and shipping companies have a responsibility to protect the health of their customers. If they are being negligent and not following the set standards the business is knowingly putting people at risk of food poisoning.