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What to do when you experience food poisoning

By Sola Ogundipe
F
ew days ago, the Federal Ministry of Health issued a health advisory on outbreak of food poisoning from listeriosis in South Africa.

Junk food

In the advisory, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole  warned Nigerians to beware of listeriosis-food  poisoning caused by eating  food items such as meat, dairy products,  fruits and vegetables contaminated by the microorganism Listeria monocystogene.

“The Nigerian public are advised to wash their fruits and vegetables properly , and ensure meats are well cooked before consumption,” the notice stated.

Adewole called for increased vigilance at the points of entry into the country by the relevant officials while directing the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC, to increase their surveillance and monitoring of food items to ensure compliance with safety guidelines. The Port health officials have also been  put on alert.

He said Nigerians are advised to be calm as the Federal Government is monitoring the development in South Africa and would be properly advised when need be.

Anyone that has ever had food poisoning, would probably have a good idea what it’s all about.

Symptoms

The main symptoms are easy to identify: stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. They can hit a few hours or a day or two after you eat the food that caused the problem.

The symptoms usually pass in a few days or even in mere hours. But if  discomfort doesn’t go away, you may need to get checked and find out exactly what made you sick.

In most cases, food poisoning symptons usually show up hours or days after you’ve eaten something that made you sick. But different organisms work at different speeds. For example, Staphylococcus aureus can give you cramps, diarrhoea, and nausea in as little as 30 minutes after you eat or drink. This bacterium grows in meat, eggs, and cream that haven’t been refrigerated properly.

Diagnosis      

Many times, food poisoning is diagnosed based simply on  symptoms.

While the main symptoms are nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, and stomach cramps, you also may have a fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, or blood in stool. There may be  dehydration that can make you dizzy when you stand up.

Tests 

Stool cultures are the most common lab test for food poisoning especially if you have a fever or intense stomach pain along with other symptoms.  A sample of stool can help tell if  sickness is related to bacteria. Microscopic exams of stool can identify parasites. Stool tests aren’t always accurate, and they can take several days to come back.

Blood tests may be necessary if the infection has spread into the blood and can detect the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes and the hepatitis A virus. Specific blood tests can tell how sick you are by looking for inflammation and signs that you’re dehydrated.

Other causes    

A host of other conditions can lead to many of the same symptoms of food poisoning. Most common is gastroenteritis, which is caused by a virus. Others include gallbladder problems, pancreatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Transmission

Pathogens can be found on almost all of the food that humans eat. However, heat from cooking usually kills them before they reach our plates.

Foods eaten raw are common sources of food poisoning because they don’t go through the cooking process.

Anyone can come down with food poisoning. Statistically speaking, nearly everyone will come down with food poisoning at least once in their lives.

Treatment

Food poisoning can usually be treated at home, and most cases will resolve within three to five days.

If you suffer from food poisoning, it’s crucial to remain properly hydrated. Sports drinks high in electrolytes can be helpful with this. Fruit juice and coconut water can restore carbohydrates and help with fatigue.

Avoid caffeine, which may irritate the digestive tract. Check with your doctor before using  medications, as the body uses vomiting and diarrhea to rid the system of the toxin.

It’s also important for those with food poisoning to get plenty of rest. In severe cases of food poisoning, individuals may require hydration with intravenous (IV) fluids at a hospital.

Diet

It’s best to gradually hold off on solid foods until vomiting and diarrhoea have ceased and instead ease back to your regular diet by eating simple-to-digest foods that are bland and low in fat.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.