When you eat some type of food that is contaminated or infected, you may suffer from a case of food-borne illness or food poisoning. Microbes, including parasites and viruses, can infect the food themselves, or they may release toxins that are harmful to humans, causing food poisoning when the food is ingested.
Your food can become contaminated during its processing stage, or afterwards, by these highly infectious agents. If your food, at home or in a restaurant, isn’t cleaned properly and cooked to the right temperatures, then you could get food poisoning after consuming a meal.
What are some symptoms and signs of food poisoning? Is food poisoning contagious? How do you handle it? This article will answer those questions and more.
Is Food Poisoning Contagious?
Your instinctual answer to this question could be “no”, since people usually get food poisoning from ingesting food. But some types of food poisoning can indeed be contagious. Whether the disease can be transmitted from you to another person depends on what type of food poisoning you have.
Some of the microbes that can cause severe and even contagious types of food poisoning include Campylobacter, Salmonella, Norovirus and E. coli. Patients affected with these types of food poisoning can spread the microbes when they vomit or in their fecal matter.
If you’re suffering from food poisoning, these nasty organisms can affect the person caring for you if they don’t take the proper precautions to protect themselves while they are caring for patients. You will generally notice symptoms of the contagious agents within a day or so after you’re infected.
Are there non-contagious forms of food poisoning?
If you get food poisoning from eating foods that were contaminated with bacterial toxins, on the other hand, this is considered to be a case of non-contagious food poisoning. Food is safe to eat if it is between 41F and 140F.
Under improper conditions, bacteria like Staphylococcus and Bacillus cereus begin producing toxins in food. These toxins resist heat, and even if you reheat your food, it does not make them inactive. If you consume food contaminated by these bacteria, you will begin showing signs of food poisoning between one and a half and five hours after you eat it. The symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.
Typical Symptoms & Signs of Food Poisoning
Your symptoms if you develop food poisoning depend on the type and source of the infection. Common signs include abdominal pain and diarrhea, accompanied by vomiting. You might also experience general weakness, nausea, headaches and fever.
If your diarrhea persists for three days or more, or you are severely vomiting and have a high fever above 101.5F, contact your physician, as you need medical attention immediately.
If you are thirsty and have a dry mouth, along with difficulty in speech and vision and you cannot urinate, this is considered a very serious case of food poisoning. In these cases, too, you need to see your physician as soon as you can, or go to an urgent care facility or emergency room if it takes place on a weekend.
How do Health Professionals Treat Food Poisoning?
If you have a bout of rough diarrhea a few hours after you eat, you may wonder how it is treated. Read on to learn:
- Allowing it to resolve on its own
Depending on how severe it is, food poisoning may clear up by itself within about two days. Don’t eat or drink, except for clear fluids, to allow your stomach to return to normal. You can speed the healing process up by drinking clear soda or clear broth. Don’t drink soda that contains caffeine. You can suck on small chips of ice or drink water in small sips.
Gradually, you’ll be able to eat bland foods that are easily digested, like gelatin, rice, bananas or toast. Some foods, including alcohol, caffeine, fried or fatty foods and dairy products should be avoided as you heal. Getting plenty of rest will help your recovery, too.
- Preventing dehydration
When you endure persistent diarrhea and vomiting, you are losing vital fluids and electrolytes that your body needs. They include potassium, sodium and calcium. These minerals are helpful in the maintenance of your proper body fluid balance. You need to replace them.
If your vomiting is constant, your physician or emergency room doctor may hospitalize you, in order that they can give you these essential minerals and fluids through an IV, so you won’t become dehydrated.
- Taking proper medications
If you have severe symptoms, your physician may prescribe antibiotics, if your case of food poisoning is bacterial. If listeria is the cause for your condition, you may need IV antibiotics.
If you are pregnant, is food poisoning contagious? Yes! It can affect the baby if you don’t seek medical help immediately and have antibiotics started.
If you’re an adult who is suffering from diarrhea without blood and you don’t have a fever, you can find relief through medications including Imodium A-D or Pepto-Bismol. Be sure to ask your physician before you take medications.
Prevention of Food Poisoning
If you cook foods properly and avoid foods that may be unsafe, you can prevent most cases of food poisoning. Foods including shellfish, sushi, poultry, eggs or meat can cause food poisoning if you eat them raw or don’t cook them properly.
In addition, hot dogs, ground beef, raw vegetables and fruits, juice, unpasteurized cheese or milk and deli meats may cause food poisoning if not properly handled, since many of the bacterial agents within them are killed when they are consumed fresh or cooked properly. Keep your hands and all food prep surfaces in your kitchen clean when you’re cooking.
Washing your hands before you handle food will help to avoid infections. All foods need to be properly stored and refrigerated after you seal them. Cook eggs and meat thoroughly before you eat them. Wash veggies and fruits before eating them.
Become aware of any food-borne infections that are widespread. Elderly people, infants, pregnant women and people with a compromised immune system should avoid foods like deli meats, soft cheese, unpasteurized milk and sushi, to lessen the risk for food poisoning.