If you eat food that has been infected or contaminated, you would suffer from food poisoning or food-borne illness. Microbes, like bacteria, parasites or even viruses, could either infect food themselves or release very harmful toxins that could cause food poisoning. Food can be contaminated at any time, either during or after processing, by these infectious agents. If food is not cleaned and cooked properly, you could get food poisoning even after consuming home cooked meals. So, what are the symptoms of food poisoning? Is food poisoning contagious? How can you deal with it? Read on to learn more.
Is Food Poisoning Contagious?
Yes, some of the food poisonings can be contagious. Whether you could transmit the disease to another person depends on the type of infection you have.
- Some microbes like E. coli, Norovirus, Salmonella and Camplylobacter could cause very severe and contagious forms of food poisoning. The patients could spread these microbes either through their fecal matter or by vomiting. These organisms could easily affect the caregivers if they do not take proper care while caring patients. You would notice symptoms after a day or so of being infected by these contagious agents.
- On the other hand, if you consume foods contaminated by bacterial toxins, you are suffering from a non-contagious food poisoning. Foods are considered safe for consumption if they are between 41°F-140°F. Under proper environmental conditions, bacteria like Bacillus cereus and Staphylococcus aureus start producing toxins in the food. These toxins are heat proof and even reheating foods does not inactivate them. You would show symptoms of food poisoning like stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea within half an hour to 5 hours of consuming this food.
What Are the Symptoms of Food Poisoning?
The symptoms of food poisoning depend upon the source and type of infection.
- The common symptoms include abdominal pain and vomiting accompanied by diarrhea. You may also experience fever, headaches, nausea and general weakness.
- If you have persisting diarrhea for 3 or more days, or you are vomiting severely and have very high fevers above 101.5°F, you would need immediate medical attention.
- You would be suffering from very serious condition of food poisoning if you are constantly thirsty and have a very dry mouth or are unable to urinate and have difficulty in your vision and speech. In such circumstances, you need to visit your doctor as soon as possible.
How Is Food Poisoning Treated?
The first question that may strike you after a bout of diarrhea within hours of eating may be, “Is food poisoning contagious?” followed by “How can it be treated?” Read on to learn more:
1. Let it Heal on Its Own
Food poisoning can often heal on its own within 48 hours. You need to stop eating or drinking to help your stomach come back to normal. You could speed up the healing process by drinking non-caffeinated drinks and clear broths or clear soda. Drink small sips of water or suck on ice chips. Gradually you can start eating bland and easy to digest foods like toast, bananas, rice or gelatin. Certain foods like dairy products, fatty and fried foods, caffeine, nicotine or alcohol must be avoided while you are healing. Adequate rest helps you recover faster.
2. Prevent Dehydration
While you are vomiting or have persistent diarrhea, you are also losing the crucial fluids and electrolytes like sodium, calcium and potassium. These minerals help to maintain proper balance of body fluids and need to be replaced. If you are vomiting continuously, you may need to be hospitalized, so that you could get these minerals and essential fluids intravenously to prevent dehydration.
3. Take Medications
If your symptoms are severe, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics in case of bacterial food poisoning. If the causative agent is listeria, you may need antibiotics through your vein in the hospital.
“Is food poisoning contagious if I am pregnant?” Yes, it is contagious and can affect your baby if you avoid seeking immediate medical help and start antibiotic treatment. Adults who suffer from diarrhea that has no traces of blood and who do not have fever could get relief by taking medications such as loperamide (Imodium A-D) or by bismuth subsalicylate, known as Pepto-Bismol. However consult your doctor before taking them.
How to Prevent Food Poisoning
Proper cooking of food and avoiding unsafe food is the best way to prevent food poisoning. Foods like meats, eggs, poultry, sushi or fish like shellfish, if eaten raw or not cooked properly, could cause food poisoning. Besides, deli meats, unpasteurized milk, cheese or juice, raw fruits and vegetables, ground beef or hotdogs could lead to food poisoning if not handled well because many bacterial agents are killed when these foods are cooked properly and consumed fresh. Furthermore, food poisoning can be avoided by keeping hands and surfaces in use clean when cooking.
To avoid infections, wash your hands before eating and cooking. All foods must be stored properly and refrigerated after sealing them well. Always cook meats and eggs thoroughly before eating. Be sure to wash fruits and vegetables before consumption. Be aware of any wide spread food-borne infections. Infants, elderly people, people who are immuno-compromised and pregnant women must avoid foods like sushi, unpasteurized milk, soft cheese and deli meats.