First Aid for Foodborne Illness

Most foodborne illness, also be termed as food poisoning, comes from bacteria present in food that has spread, either from unhygienic handling, incorrect cooking, or poor storage of food items. Other things, such as parasites, toxins, chemicals, and viruses, can also contaminate food, but these reasons are much less general than contamination caused from bacteria.

Botulism is a type of foodborne disease that can be very severe and may lead to paralysis and even death if left untreated. Botulism toxins are mostly often found in honey, home-canned foods, and smoked meats.

First Aid Guide for Foodborne Illness

If you are fed up of foodborne illness, taking ample rest and drinking plenty of fluids is the key.

  • Consume Gatorade or water to avoid dehydration 

  • When illness diminish, gradually get back into eating by trying bland, easy-to-digest food items, like crackers, plain bananas, bread, rice, and meat. Stop consuming if your nausea reoccurs. Avoid dairy products, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and fatty or spicy meals for a few days. 

  • You can also opt for acetaminophen (Tylenol) for relief of uneasiness, unless you have liver illness.

  • Don't rely on anti-diarrheal medications; they may reduce elimination of bacteria from your system.

Tips to Avoid Foodborne Diseases

Foodborne illness can be warded off by following these general tips:

  • Wash and clean your hands prior to handling food 

  • Wash your hands after using the toilet, replacing diapers, smoking, blowing nose, sneezing etc.

  • Clean your hands after handling raw meat or eggs 

  • Use plastic, not wooden, cutting boards for mincing raw meats 

  • Thoroughly wash every surfaces and utensils that has to come into contact with uncooked meat 

  • Cook meat and eggs completely before eating 

  • Do not consume foods made from raw or half cooked eggs, meats, or unpasteurized dairy products 

  • Wash all items thoroughly prior to eating 

Avoid cross-infection of foods by keeping cooked foods, and ready-to-eat food items away from uncooked meats and raw eggs

Who's at Risk?

Foodborne diseases can be developed in any person shortly after consumption of contaminated food. Illness may take place when a person complains that food he/she has eaten "didn't taste well" or ate food that was stale, incorrectly prepared, or was kept at room temperature for over 4 hours or more. There may not be any indication that food or water has been contaminated until the signs of illness are unearthed. 

Certain people are more inclined to foodborne illness than others, like:

  • Elderly Adults – Older age is one of the factors sensitive to foodborne illness as the immune system gets slower to respond and reduces with increasing age. 

  • Infants/young Children – Young age plays a crucial factor in sensitivity to foodborne illness also, as young children and infants' immune systems are not completely grown. 

  • Others With Lowered Immune Systems – Diabetics, with AIDS, and those under going therapy for cancer (ie, radiation or chemotherapy), and those who are pregnant.

Signs and Symptoms of Foodborne Illness

Within hours or some days after eating contaminated food, signs usually include diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, fever, and often vomiting. Symptoms of foodborne illness is almost similar to the symptoms of flu, hence it is often confused with flu.

Symptoms of botulism encompass headache, slurred speech, dizziness, difficulty in swallowing, and trouble in breathing occurring within 12–36 hours of contamination.

When to Seek Medical Assistance

Foodborne illness often subsides on its own within 48 hours. But if the sign did not subside after 48 hours or if you witness bloody stools, you should seek medical assistance.

Seek emergency medical care if:

  • Symptoms are serious, such as diarrhea that turns bloody within 24 hours 

  • Botulism poisoning is suspected

Treatments for Foodborne Illness

For cases of severe foodborne illness, like botulism, the physician may clean the digestive system by discarding indigested food from the stomach and suggesting drugs to stimulate bowel movements.

Maintaining adequate fluid, electrolyte balance and controlling blood pressure are imperative. Oral rehydration therapy may be applied, and dialysis may be required until the kidneys can function normally.

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