Causes of Food Poisoning and Treatment

“Foodborne illness,” also known as food poisoning, occurs when food is digested that contains a toxin, chemical or infectious agent such as bacteria, virus or parasite. Such infectious organisms cause contamination at either the point of food processing or production, or while food is handled or cooked incorrectly at home.

Signs & Symptoms of Food Poisoning

Because there are various sources of contamination, food poisoning symptoms can vary. However, most types of food poisoning cause abdominal cramps, vomiting, watery diarrhea and/or fever. Symptoms usually start within hours of eating the contaminated food but depending on the cause of food poisoning, some cases can begin even days or even weeks later.

Risk Factors that Increase Your Chances of Getting Food Poisoning

The organism, the amount of exposure, your age and health status is what determines whether you will get sick or not after eating contaminated food. Older adults, pregnant women, infants and young children as well as people with chronic disease are all high-risk groups that have a greater chance of getting food poisoning.

Fortunately, in Burlington Ontario, there is the Halton Food Safety Inspections to prevent food poisoning in restaurants.  On our grocery shelves, you’ll ocassionaly see mass recalls, where meats or vegetables such as spinach are recalled due to salmonella or e coli contamination.

Food Poisoning Remedies and Treating Yourself at Home

Food poisoning usually improves within 48 hours without treatment. During those 48 hours, eat bland foods that reduce stress on your digestive system, rest and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. You can lose a lot of fluid while having diarrhea from food poisoning and that fluid needs to be replaced. Depending on the case, oral rehydration fluids may be an option. Adults with no fever and who have diarrhea that is not bloody may get relief from taking a medication such as Pepto-Bismol. For more serious cases, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

Food Poisoning Treatment

You should see your doctor if vomiting or diarrhea is associated with a fever, there is blood in the stool, of there are signs of dehydration (such as lightheadedness).  Diarrhea that lasts longer than 72 hours and/or repeated vomiting that prevents rehydration is also a time to visit the doctor.  In most cases, diagnosis of food poisoning is made by consulting the patient’s history and conducting a physical exam. The exam can involve taking vital signs and looking for clinical signs of dehydration. Routine blood tests are sometimes ordered when there is concern for patients with significant dehydration. If there is concern for a parasite infection, a stool sample may be ordered.

Preventing Food Poisoning at Home

The following tips help prevent food poisoning at home:

  • Cook food thoroughly, especially eggs, poultry and meat. Test meat with a meat thermometer to ensure it’s cooked all the way through before eating.
  • Refrigerate leftovers right away to avoid the growth of bacteria and viruses.
  • Ensure your fridge and freezer are set to the right temperatures.
  • Before eating, wash fruits and vegetables well.
  • Keep counters clean and do not cross-contaminate work surfaces such as cutting boards.
  • When eating in restaurants, make sure the food is cooked thoroughly – especially meats.
  • In Burlington, you can review a restaurant's health and safety reports on Dinewise.

Brant Arts IDA Can Help!

Think you may have food poisoning but not sure what to do now? Or, want more tips for how to prevent food poisoning in your household? See the professional staff at Brant Arts IDA today!