1 in 6 or 48 million Americans are affected by food-borne illnesses each year. 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.
So what is food poisoning? It is an illness caused from eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with bacteria, parasites, viruses and or chemicals. Chemicals? That would include all of the dangerous food lurking in the grocery stores now. Let's stay with the most common pathogens: Salmonella (eggs, chicken), Clostridium perfringens (oysters, mussels, clams - Shore food), Campylobacter (dairy), Staphylococcus aureus (potato salad, mayo, dairy products) and Norovirus.
How will you feel if you have food poisoning?
You'll look like death-warmed over, green around the gills, but the symptoms can vary in degree and combination. You might experience the following:
- Abdominal pain - painful cramps that can make you double over - these begin higher up than low menstrual cramps, but remember you have long small and large intestines
- Vomiting - major presenter with Staph aureus from your friend's homemade mayonaise potato salad, B cereus from that Chinese fried rice and Norovirus because you just had to attend that raw food potluck and got unlucky with the kale salad
- Diarrhea - don't worry it usually lasts less than 2 weeks - have all of your well-wisher friends bring over rolls of toilet paper so you don't get stranded without in your house - the friends that are really glad that they didn't eat what you ate
- Noninflammatory diarrhea leads to large volume watery stools with no blood, pus or severe abdominal pain. Inflammatory diarrhea is when the colon or distal small bowel is involved. You will have a fever, look terribly toxic and have bloody mucosy diarrhea. The stool volume is smaller than noninflammatory diarrhea.
Proctitis syndrome, seen with shigellosis is accompanied by frequent painful bowel movements containing blood, pus, and mucus. Rectal cramping is prominent.
- Headache - your head will pound anyway after you've thrown up twelve times
- Stool changes: all the pretty colors - it can be bloody or mucousy if the intestinal wall has been invaded or it might be a profuse rice watery consistency if you have cholera
- Reactive arthritis - as if the G.I. stuff wasn't enough - seen with Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, and Yersinia infections. Yersinia enterocolitis can mimic appendicitis with lower right quadrant pain.
- Bloating: That is the least of your worries. Male or female you will look like you are 6 months pregnant and it can be due to giardiasis - another bug you can easily pick up camping or traveling
Serious food poisoning can lead to neurologic, liver and kidney syndromes that could cause permanent disability or death.
The name of the game is dehydration. Focus on the severity of water loss from your tissues.
- Is your mouth dry? Are you sweating? Are you able to pee?
- If your dehydration is severe then you might be dizzy, experience rapid heart beats and have low blood pressure
Pick up your skin up and if it stays tented then you have severe dehydration; call your doctor or your nearest emergency room and describe your symptoms.