That Thing You Ate – A Look at Food Poisoning
years ago, my child was at an overnight camp. One day, I receive a call from
the camp’s infirmary that my daughter is there because they feel she had a heat
stroke. Camp is six hours away. I ask if I should pick her up. The nurse tells
me that they can take care of her, hydrate her and see if she gets better. I
ask of her symptoms and am told, she is having body aches and some vomiting. I
asked about food and told that not likely food poisoning. Just to find out
later, that my daughter and her friends all got ill that evening after eating
things can cause food poisoning, including: bacteria, viruses, toxins,
parasites, etc. As an emergency physician, we usually have an idea what is the
more likely causes after reviewing our patient’s eating history and time frame
should be aware that vegetables, fruits, eggs, meats and dairy are the most
often offenders, and can result in death.
Who is most at risk?
- Those with chronic illnesses.
food poisoning are typically gastrointestinal and include nausea and vomiting
as well as diarrhea. These could lead to patient’s dehydration and loss of
electrolytes and water. Other symptoms can also appear, i.e. fevers, body
aches, blood in the stool, abdominal pain and others.
common cause of food poisoning in the United States is viral, and norovirus is
the lead, causing over 5 million cases a year. Noroviruses are found in
drinking water, raw foods, contaminated by food handlers (most obvious examples
are on Cruise ships). Symptoms begin in 12-48 hours and typically self-limiting
within 48-72 hours. Patients most often have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and
is the next one. It causes most hospitalization out of almost 1 million
patients go to the hospital. Salmonella is found in numerous food products,
including poultry, peanut butter, juices, unpasteurized milk, eggs, and others.
Symptoms are abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Symptoms usually begin
within six to 48 hours after ingestion and may last up to seven days. Treating
with antibiotics is controversial, since it may cause prolonged shedding of the
numerous other causes of infection and could be divided into those that cause
hemorrhagic enteritis and non-hemorrhagic. Typically, the rule of thumb is to treat
with antibiotics those that have hemorrhagic diarrheas and parasitic ones.
we should not forger toxins: botulism. It is caused by a toxin produced by
bacteria: Clostridium Botulism, and cause patient to have paralysis of muscles
that starts in the face and progresses down the body. It is found in
unpasteurized honey and canned foods. Treatment would be supportive, mainly to
help patients breath; may last a long time; does have an antitoxin to treat
this type of poisoning.
Ways to help prevent food
wash your hands when cooking, wash your produce well.
cook your meats well!
left overs within 1-2 hours, keep foods below 40 degrees.
separate your cooked foods from not.
and drink pasteurized food products.
end, I do believe by daughter had food poisoning from eating undercooked
chicken! Thankfully she resolved quickly and was able to stay in camp for the
About the Author: Yanina Purim-Shem-Tov, MD, MS, FACEP is Associate Professor and Senior
Medical Director for the Department of Emergency Medicine and Medical Director
of the Chest Pain Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.