Fight Food Poisoning with First Aid
From reheating 3-day old left-overs to eating that chicken that is a couple of days past its use-by-date, food poisoning can present itself in many different forms.
Although you are likely to experience it at some point in your life, we share the steps that you can take to reduce your risk of contracting food poisoning.
What is Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning symptoms can range from mild to severe and are caused by bacteria, toxins or viruses contained within food or drink. Infectious bacteria/toxins can contaminate food during production or at home if food is incorrectly cooked or handled.
The main symptoms of food poisoning, which can develop anywhere from 5-72 hours, consist of nausea, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, vomiting and headaches/fever.
There are over 500,000 cases of food poisoning recorded in the UK each year, with Salmonella accounting for 2,500 hospital admissions.
Types of Food Poisoning
Some of the main sources of contamination include:
Salmonella – often found in raw or undercooked meat, raw eggs, milk and other dairy products; most people with this type of infection will be unwell for around 7-14 days. Salmonella can cause severe dehydration, so it is vital to drink plenty of fluids if you contract this illness. It is also possible for this infection to pass into the bloodstream - particularly dangerous for elderly, children and those recovering from a disease.
Listeria – This type of bacteria is generally found in ready-to-eat foods, such as pre-packed sandwiches, cooked sliced meats, pate and soft cheeses, when they are consumed past their use-by-date. Symptoms of Listeria usually pass within 3 days, however, this can vary considerably.
E. coli (Escherichia coli) – E. coli are bacteria found in the digestive system of animals, including humans, which are usually harmless but, in some cases, can lead to serious illness. Undercooked beef and unpasteurised milk are common sources of e. Coli, leaving people feeling unwell for around 1-8 days.
What Causes Food Poisoning?
- Not correctly storing chilled food below 5 degrees
- Undercooking certain foods
- Leaving cooked food for too long in warm temperatures
- Not sufficiently re-heating cooked food
- Eating food past its use-by-date
- Spreading of bacteria between contaminated foods
First Aid for Food Poisoning
Treating food poisoning depends on the source of the illness, as well as the severity of your symptoms. For most cases, the illness will resolve itself without needing medical attention or treatment.
For mild cases of food poisoning, it is vital to remain hydrated, so drink plenty of fluids. You should also avoid certain foods and substances until your illness has passed, including dairy products, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. Getting rest is also important, as food poisoning can significantly weaken and tire your body.
If you suspect that you have contracted food poisoning, you should refrain from preparing food for yourself or anyone else. It is also important to keep contact with vulnerable people (elderly people, children etc.) to a minimum. You should wash your hands with warm water and soap on a regular basis to help prevent the spread of infection.
We hope that this has clued you up on food poisoning and will help you to enjoy your favourite foods without any risk of illness!