Food Poisoning Symptoms

Food poisoning symptoms might appear mild and manageable but when persistent these might become fatal.


Food is a basic need for every living organism to survive. However, in some instances food becomes the source of danger and threat to human life such as in the cases of food poisoning. Before going through food poisoning symptoms, let’s have an overview of what food poisoning is.

What’s food poisoning?

Food poisoning is a disease brought about by contaminated food also known as food-borne illness. Food contamination means the food has unintentionally contain a harmful substance or microorganism that may cause illness to the food consumer known as food poisoning. The symptoms of this illness are usually gastrointestinal in nature and are usually self-limiting.

After the contaminated food has been eliminated from the body through passing out of stool or vomiting, the illness gets cured by its own within twenty-four (24) to forty-eight (48) hours. On the other hand, serious cases may affect other organs from the nervous, urinary and muscular systems as well as may need health professional attention to be cured.

What are the common of cause food poisoning?

The common causes of food poisoning include infectious microorganisms and toxins.

Infectious microorganisms are consists of viruses, bacteria and parasites. On the other hand, the toxins may come from poor handling or preparation of foods, chemicals applied to foods such as pesticides sprayed on vegetables and fruits few days before harvest and consumption of wild plants such as mushrooms.

The most common viruses that cause food poisoning are:

1. Noroviruses
2. Rotavirus
3. Hepatitis A virus

Other infectious causative agents of food poisoning are bacteria. These agents may directly harm an affected individual by causing gastrointestinal infection or it may release toxins on foods consumed by humans that results to poisoning. The most common bacteria causing this illness are:

1. Salmonella
2. Campylobacter
3. Escherichia coli
4. Clostridium botulinum

Furthermore, parasites from contaminated water consumed by people may also lead to food poisoning and these parasites include:

1. Giardia
2. Cryptosporidium
3. Toxoplasma

Aside from infectious causative agents, food poisoning can also be brought about by toxins. The common sources of toxins are the following:

1. Wild mushrooms
2. Gambierdisus toxicus
3. Scombroid
4. Pesticides

What are food poisoning symptoms?

Food poisoning symptoms vary depending on the causative agent and the amount of contaminant that has been ingested. Some individuals may exhibit mild symptoms and resolves within a day. Others may manifest severe symptoms and may persist through the succeeding days. The onset of symptoms may also be sudden or sometimes symptoms develop gradually.

As mentioned earlier, symptoms of food poisoning generally affects the gastrointestinal tract. Hence, the most common food poisoning symptoms include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting as well as abdominal cramps. However, in most cases a food poisoned person may also experience fever due to excessive fluid loss.

Furthermore, other causative agents may affect the nervous system such as the neurotoxic Clostridium botulinum. Food poisoning caused by this microorganism may begin with mild weakness up to paralysis.

Moreover, there are symptoms that prompt medical practitioner’s interventions. These include increased body temperature (fever), bloody stool and inability to hydrate self through oral fluid intake due to persistent vomiting. Another symptom that requires medical help is loose bowel movement for three days or more and dehydration.

How is food poisoning diagnosed?

Food poisoning is diagnosed through its symptoms. Likewise, there are laboratory examinations done to confirm whether the illness is really food poisoning and what might have caused it. Some of these laboratory examinations include blood test, urine test, stool exam and abdominal X-ray or CT scan.

Blood test is done by drawing out blood from the affected person. This test is used to identify whether there is presence of electrolyte imbalance due to the frequent loss of fluids. Blood test is also done to check for renal function because severe food poisoning may damage the kidneys.

Urinalyis is conducted to check the urine characteristics of the patient. This may aid in assessing for presence of dehydration such as overly concentrated urine. Likewise, renal function is also assessed through this test.

Fecalysis is done by subjecting a stool specimen for examination to determine presence of bacteria or parasites that might have caused the infection. This is done to identify whether the food poisoning suffered by the patient is brought about by infection or by toxins. Likewise, distinct characteristics of stool such as presence of blood or mucus are associated with specific causative agents.

Abdominal CT scan or X-ray is requested by the physician to be performed to the patient if symptoms and other laboratory exams are suggestive for a different illness instead of food poisoning.

How is food poisoning treated?

Food poisoning symptoms will help a person decide whether the illness can be managed at home through home remedies or it requires medical professional intervention. In other words, treatment depends on the severity of the illness.

For food poisoning with mild symptoms, home remedies can be sufficient. These may include:

1. Increase oral fluid intake.
2. Maintain on clear liquid diet and progress to solid food intake when tolerated.
3. Prevent intake of stomach or bowel irritants such as foods or drinks that contain alcohol and caffeine.
4. Drink some tea with ginger and lemon to relieve symptoms of food poisoning.

Severe food poisoning symptoms may require hospital admission. The following are the medical treatment given to patients suffering from food poisoning:

1. Intravenous fluid administration
2. Anti-emetic (anti-vomiting), anti-diarrheal and antipyretic (medication for fever) medication administration
3. Antibiotics and anti-protozoan medications may also be given depending on the causative agent of food poisoning.
4. For toxin-related food poisoning, antidotes maybe given. One of the most common antidotes administered for food poisoning is activated charcoal.

Food poisoning symptoms should always be considered serious health concerns. Health remedies might be good to address immediate need for relief. However, medical intervention would still be best to ensure that the illness is treated appropriately.

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