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Food Poisoning

Self-care treats most cases. Botulism, chemical food poisoning, and severe bacterial food poisoning need immediate care.

  • Botulism

    Cause

    Toxin from bacteria usually from eating improperly canned foods. Also found in honey and oils infused with garlic. Grows only in little or no oxygen.

    Signs & Symptoms

    Blurred vision. Double vision. A hard time speaking and swallowing. Breathing problems. Muscle weakness. Paralysis. Signs occur within 4 to 36 hours.

    Prevention

    Follow proper canning methods. Boil home-canned food for 10 or more minutes. Don’t eat foods from cans with leaks or bulges. Refrigerate oils infused with garlic or herbs. Don’t give honey to children less than 1 year old.

  • E. coli

    Cause

    Bacteria from contaminated water, raw milk, raw or rare ground beef, unpasteurized apple juice or cider, or contact with contaminated animal feces.

    Signs & Symptoms

    Diarrhea or bloody discharge. Abdominal cramps. Nausea. Signs occur within 2 to 5 days and last about 8 days.

    Prevention

    Don’t drink unpasteurized milk and apple cider. Wash your hands after using the bathroom and cleaning up animal feces.

  • Listeria

    Cause

    Bacteria from unpasteurized milk, uncooked meats, foods contaminated during processing (cold cuts, hot dogs, soft cheeses).

    Signs & Symptoms

    Fever. Chills. Headache. Backache. Abdominal pain. Diarrhea. Often, signs occur within 48 to 72 hours, but can take up to 3 weeks to occur.

    Prevention

    Don’t drink unpasteurized milk. Cook beef to an internal temperature of 160ºF.

  • Salmonella

    Cause

    Bacteria from raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, and meat and from food that comes in contact with contaminated surfaces.

    Signs & Symptoms

    Stomach pain. Diarrhea. Nausea. Chills. Fever. Headache. Signs occur within 8 to 12 hours and last up to 1 or 2 days.

    Prevention

    Don’t have unpasteurized milk, raw and undercooked eggs. Cook eggs to 160ºF (the white and yolk are firm). Use clean utensils and surfaces.

  • Staphylococcal enterotoxin

    Cause

    Toxin from bacteria usually from meats, dairy foods, eggs, etc. that are not kept cold (e.g., unrefrigerated, at picnics, etc.) Also spread by human contact.

    Signs & Symptoms

    Severe nausea. Abdominal cramps. Diarrhea. Vomiting. Signs occur within 1 to 6 hours and last up to 3 days. Signs last longer if severe dehydration occurs.

    Prevention

    Keep foods that can spoil cold (40ºF or below) or hot (140ºF or higher). Don’t eat foods kept for more than 2 hours between 40ºF and 140ºF. Don’t eat foods that look or smell spoiled. Wash your hands often. Use clean utensils and surfaces.

  • Chemicals

    Cause

    From foods with pesticides and eating poisonous mushrooms or poisonous plant leaves or berries.

    Signs & Symptoms

    Sweating. Dizziness. Mental confusion. Very teary eyes. Watery mouth. Stomach pain. Vomiting. Diarrhea. Signs start to occur within 30 minutes.

    Prevention

    Wash raw fruits and vegetables before eating them. Don’t store food or liquids in containers with lead- based paints. Don’t store alcohol in lead crystal containers.

  • Hepatitis A virus

    Cause

    From contaminated water, raw and undercooked shellfish, oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, etc.

    Signs & Symptoms

    Appetite loss. Nausea. Vomiting. Fever. Jaundice and dark urine after 3 to 10 days. Liver damage and death from severe infection.

    Prevention

    Hepatitis A vaccine. Don’t eat raw or undercooked shellfish, oysters, etc.

  • Norwalk-like viruses

    Cause

    From food and touching objects contaminated with the virus. Direct contact with an infected person.

    Signs & Symptoms

    Nausea. Vomiting. Diarrhea. Stomach cramps. Signs occur within 12 to 48 hours and last up to 2 days.

    Prevention

    Wash your hands often, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before handling food. Disinfect contaminated surfaces.

  • Mercury

    Cause

    From eating contaminated fish (e.g., shark, swordfish, tuna, king mackerel, tilefish).

    Signs & Symptoms

    Numbness and tingling in the lips, fingers, and toes. A hard time walking and speaking. Muscle weakness. Memory loss. Mental changes. Tremors.

    Prevention

    Check local health department for safety of fish. Limit fish high in mercury. Pregnant women need to follow the advice of their doctor.

Questions to Ask

Self-Care / Prevention

•  For chemical food poisoning, call the Poison Control Center (800.222.1222).

•  Heed warnings for food products that could be harmful. News reports list these items. So does the FDA at www.fda.gov.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.

 

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