Treatment, Prevention and Complications of Food Poisoning

Treatment for food poisoning depends on the source of the illness and the severity of your symptoms. Most often the illness resolves without treatment within a few days, though some types of food poisoning may last longer.

Updated: June 16, 2022

Food poisoning is also called as food-borne illness. The illness is caused by eating contaminated food. The most common causes of food poisoning are infectious organisms such as, bacteria, viruses and parasites or their toxins.
Treatment for food poisoning depends on the source of the illness and the severity of your symptoms. Most often the illness resolves without treatment within a few days, though some types of food poisoning may last longer.

Treatment of Food Poisoning:

Replacement of lost fluids:

Fluids and electrolytes (minerals such as sodium, potassium and calcium) that maintain the balance of fluids in your body will be lost due to persistent diarrhea which need to be replaced. Some children and adults with persistent diarrhea or vomiting may need hospitalization, where they can receive salts and fluids intravenously, to prevent or treat dehydration.

Antibiotics:

If you have certain kinds of bacterial food poisoning and your symptoms are severe, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Food poisoning caused by listeria needs to be treated with intravenous antibiotics during hospitalization. It is always better to start the treatment as soon as possible. During pregnancy, prompt antibiotic treatment may help keep the infection from affecting the baby.
Antibiotics will not help food poisoning caused by viruses. Antibiotics may actually worsen symptoms in certain kinds of viral or bacterial food poisoning. Talk to your doctor about your options.
The medication loperamide or bismuth subsalicylate can help relieve symptoms in case of adults with diarrhea that is not bloody and who have no fever. But make sure to take advise from your doctor before using it.

Lifestyle and home remedies:

Food poisoning often improves without treatment within 48 hours. Try the following to help keep yourself more comfortable and prevent dehydration while you recover:

Let your stomach settle:

Stop eating and drinking for a few hours.

Try sucking on ice chips or taking small sips of water:

You might also try drinking clear soda, clear broth or non-caffeinated sports drinks, such as Gatorade. Make sure you are getting enough fluid, urinating normally and your urine is clear and not dark.

Ease back into eating:

Gradually begin to eat bland, low-fat, easy-to-digest foods, such as soda crackers, toast, gelatin, bananas and rice. Stop eating if your nausea returns.

Avoid certain foods and substances until you are feeling better:

These include dairy products, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and fatty or highly seasoned foods.

Rest:

The illness and dehydration can weaken and tire you. Rest as much as possible .

Preventing the Spread of Infection:

  • You should not prepare food for other people if you have food poisoning.
  • Try to keep minimum contact with vulnerable people, such as the elderly or very young.
  • Stay off work or school until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhea.
  • If someone you live with has food poisoning, you should maintain proper hygiene. This can be done by:
  1. making sure everyone in your household washes their hands with soap and warm water regularly, particularly after going to the toilet and before and after preparing food.
  2. cleaning surfaces, toilet seats, flush handles, basins and taps frequently
  3. making sure everyone has their own towels and flannels
  4. washing the laundry of the infected person on the hottest washing machine setting

To prevent food poising, make sure that your food is properly sealed and stored. Thoroughly cook meat and eggs. Anything that comes in contact with raw products should be sanitized before using it to prepare other foods. Make sure to always wash fruits and vegetables before serving.

Complications of Food Poisoning:

The most common serious complication of food poisoning is dehydration which is a severe loss of water and essential salts and minerals. Some types of food poisoning have potentially serious complications for certain people. These include:

Listeria monocytogenes:

Complications of a listeria food poisoning may be most severe for an unborn baby. A listeria infection may lead to miscarriage in early pregnancy. Later in pregnancy, a listeria infection may lead to stillbirth, premature birth or a potentially fatal infection in the baby after birth.
Infants who survive a listeria infection may experience long-term neurological damage and delayed development.

Escherichia coli (E. coli):

a serious complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome can be caused by certain E. coli strains. This syndrome damages the lining of the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, sometimes leading to kidney failure. Older adults, children younger than 5 and people with weakened immune systems have a higher risk of developing this complication. If you are in one of these risk categories, visit your doctor at the first sign of profuse or bloody diarrhea.


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