Food poisoning is also known as a foodborne illness; it is one of the most chronic diseases. It generally happens when you consume foods that external pathogens have contaminated. These include parasites, viruses, and various types of bacteria. These toxins contaminate the food, which causes the consumers to get the symptoms. This generally happens when the food is kept in the open for too long. Or, if the food is processed chemically, then different reactions occur in the food itself. Undercooking is also a reason why the foods remain contaminated even while consuming.
Usually, the symptoms of food poisoning can be spotted very quickly. Within a few hours of consumption, you will feel a disturbance in your stomach or intestine. These symptoms are generally accompanied by mild nausea, diarrhoea, or vomiting. In most cases, these occur lightly and go away as time passes. However, in rare cases, the patient may undergo severe symptoms. In such cases, medical help is significant.
Food Poisoning Symptoms, Duration and Treatment
Usually, the victims face sudden upset of their stomach. There are over 250 types of germs that can cause food poisoning.
Before we go into details, we should know how what are the primary symptoms
The most common symptoms include-
- Cramps in stomach or intestine
- Aching in muscles
- Sudden chills
- General malaise
- The random feeling of thirst
In case you are suffering from an extreme case of food poisoning, you may experience different symptoms. These include shocks, unconsciousness, severe cramping in the abdomen, and bloody vomit or stool.
Generally, the symptoms can be spotted as fast as after a few hours or as late as weeks. The nature of the pathogen that causes food poisoning directly influences this period. Usually, patients suffering from mild food poisoning heal within 48 hours or so.
Even though everyone can be affected by food poisoning, young babies and older adults are more susceptible to it.
Clostridium botulinum, which is the bacterium that causes botulism, can cause serious consequences. Otherwise, fatal food poisoning cases are very rare. In the case of botulism, the nervous system of the patient gets affected. In such cases, immediate medical treatment is recommended.
When parasites, viruses, or bacteria contaminate the food you consume, there is a chance of food poisoning. Usually, the most common food poisoning bacteria include Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus.
Also, meat is considered to be the most significant source of food poisoning worldwide. Undercooked or contaminated meat contributes to more than 40 percent of general food poisoning cases. Other than this, undercooked eggs, contaminated cheese, and old beverages like milk and cider can cause too. Unwashed vegetables, fruits, and raw fish are significant causes as well. Even undercooked rice and contaminated water can cause food poisoning in some cases.
Most people are curious as to how long does food poisoning last. In short, this varies from person to person.
Not everyone will be affected equally with food poisoning, even with the same contaminated food intake. This is because the immunity inside the body varies individually. Some people have better resistance to these bacteria, and as a result, are mildly affected. Others can be severely affected.
Usually, mildly affected patients with food poisoning will get better within 1 to 2 days. However, on average, patients take up to 10 days for a complete cure. However, for heavy and severe cases, patients can suffer for several weeks and months as well. The worst part of food poisoning is that you can get a fever. This prolongs your total affected period.
Food poisoning Diet
The BRAT diet is the best option to follow during food poisoning. This diet includes bread, rice, or rice pudding, apple sauce, and toast. It can be accompanied by banana and bland dishes. Light chicken noodle soup can also be taken. The key is to avoid foods that are spicy, greasy, or fried.
Also, drinking fluids is essential in this period. Non-isotonic fluids, such as ORS, broth, or light juices, are ideal. For diarrhoea patients, taking these are a must.
Food Poisoning Measures
Pepto Bismol or Bismuth subsalicylate can be taken during food poisoning. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and soothing agent. The only visible effect in your body after taking this is that your stool will turn black.
Staying hydrated and keeping a light diet will most likely help you recover from food poisoning quickly. However, if you are feeling severe symptoms, it is always wise to go for a medical check-up. External medication may be required if your initial body immunity is low as well.
For patients suffering from severe diarrhoea and nausea, hydration has to be done externally via IV fluids. In such cases, help from a medical professional is a must.
If your fever is staying for a duration longer than usual, it should not be overlooked. If you are in extreme pain from cramps, visiting a doctor is highly recommended.
For patients who are already under medication or have a low immune system, medical supervision is essential.
Even though there are multiple food poisoning symptoms, you will be able to deduce it by the discomfort. In most cases, you will be able to feel cramps in your stomach. Unlike stomach bugs, food poisoning affects patients differently. If you are confused with which is which, you should study the symptoms that you are undergoing. Upon deduction that the discomfort is really from food poisoning, take appropriate action.
There are many things that you should consider before going to seek help from a medical professional. For example, the immune system’s functions, current health state, and severity of symptoms should be evaluated. For example, food poisoning can lead to viral gastroenteritis as well. In such cases, medication is vital. Other than that, regular medication, home rest, proper diet, and hydration are enough to combat most food poisoning cases.
This is why it is essential to know how long does food poisoning last. If you have a vague idea, you will be able to determine the severity of your case. Whenever it lasts longer than usual, or you are more severely affected, it’s a sign for you to take action. In such cases, do not hesitate to consult a doctor and undergo prescribed treatments.
Symptoms of Food Poisoning
The source through which the food gets contaminated causes a variety of symptoms among the patients. Even though there are several symptoms associated with food poisoning, the most basic symptoms are given below. One or more of these symptoms can show up if you are suffering from mild food poisoning.
- Cramps and pain in the abdomen or intestine
- Bloody or watery diarrhoea
There is no fixed duration during which these symptoms will show up. For example, most people do get these symptoms within a few hours of eating food. However, it has been reported that many food poisoning patients have spotted their symptoms after few days or even weeks. Similar to the generating time of symptoms, the duration is uncertain as well. You can suffer from food poisoning for only a few hours, or it can last days and weeks as well.
Generic Causes of Food Poisoning
Since food poisoning mainly occurs when the food gets contaminated, it can occur at any time. Even at the point of production, foods can get contaminated. Even in the processes such as growing, harvesting, or processing, contamination is highly possible. Other probable causes include cross-contamination. In such a process, pathogens are transferred between different surfaces. For readymade foods and raw foods, this can pose a significant health hazard. The most prominent example is a salad. Salads get contaminated as they are kept in the open for long and used in different readymade foods.
As for raw foods that are not cooked, they remain contaminated when they are consumed. In most cases, even if the materials are contaminated, with proper cooking, the pathogens get destroyed. That is not possible with raw foods.
Symptoms, Contaminants, and Transmission Methods
Food poisoning pathogens mainly include different types of bacteria, parasites, and viruses. A detailed description of the symptoms, contaminants, and transmission methods is given below.
This generally affects the patients from 2 to 5 days. The main food sources are poultry and meat. Typically found in animal excreta, contamination occurs when meat surfaces come in contact with them. This pathogen can also come from contaminated water. Unpasteurized milk is yet another source.
The effect for this pathogen is generally seen within 12 to 72 hours. This is one of the most common sources of food poisoning to occur. Most low acidity contained home-canned foods are contaminated with this pathogen. Similarly, commercial foods that are not adequately canned can also cause food poisoning. Foods covered in aluminium foil salted and smoked fish act as sources. Foods that have been warmed and kept in the open for long also act as sources.
This usually takes 8 to 16 hours to show up. The most common sources of this pathogen are gravy, stews, and meat. Whenever the food is kept in the open and gets chilled, the toxins get cultivated. Later, when these foods are slightly warmed and served, consumers will surely get food poisoning.
Also known as E. coli, takes around 1 to 8 days to develop the symptoms. Whenever cows are slaughtered, and the beef gets contaminated with faeces, the meat gets contaminated. Ground beef, when undercooked, is the most significant source of contamination of E. coli. Other than this, contaminated water, alfalfa sprouts, apple cider, and unpasteurized milk also act as sources.
Patients with this pathogen takes about 1 to 2 weeks before the food poisoning symptoms show up. Spreads widely by food handlers who are infected and are significant contributors to contaminated water as well. Other than this, readymade foods and raw foods also act as sources.
Usually, the patient takes up to 28 days to spot the symptoms. This is also highly infectious, and food handlers who are infected beforehand contribute to its spread. Readymade foods, raw materials, contaminated water, and shellfish are the primary sources.
It takes up to 9 to 48 hours to come up with the symptoms. Its primary sources include unwashed raw materials, luncheon meats, and hot dogs. Unpasteurized milk and milk products, such as cheese, also act as sources. It mainly transfers through contaminated water and soil.
These are Norwalk like viruses and takes up 12 to 48 hours to spread. The primary sources include readymade foods, shellfish, contaminated water, and raw foods. Once again, it can spread widely with a food handler who is already infected.
This virus takes one day to 3 days to fully infect a person. Infected persons handling food can cause it to transmit. When taken raw, or materials for readymade foods can act as the sources for this virus to cause food poisoning.
This takes 1 to 3 days for the symptoms to occur. Contaminated meat or raw meat is its most significant source. Other than that, egg yolks, milk, and poultry act as sources as well. Undercooked food may help in its transmission as well; cutting surfaces such as knives and spoons can help in contamination.
This takes around 24 hours to 48 hours to show up. Raw seafood and readymade food act as sources. Infected persons can transmit by handling processed foods as well.
This is one of the fastest transmitting pathogens that cause food poisoning. It usually takes as less as 1 to 6 hours to cultivate. Prepared salads, open meats, pastries with cream, and sauces are the sources. This is highly infectious and can be transmitted with sneezing, coughing, and even simple hand contact.
This takes around 1 to 7 days to generate the symptoms. The primary sources include whole scallops, clams, mussels, and oysters. Undercooking and raw consumption can spread this pathogen too. Contaminated seawater is another way of transmission.
Food poisoning can be mild to very severe. It mainly depends on the pathogen, the exposure, and the patient’s health and age. Some people are more prone to severe illness due to food poisoning. These include-
- Older age group – Immune system of the older generation is already declining. As a result, infections can be much more dangerous and long-lasting.
- Pregnant women – In pregnancy, the hormonal levels inside the body are not normal. As a result, circulation and metabolism are not usual. This increases the chances of getting infected. Even the baby has a higher risk of getting sick in such cases.
- Very young age group – The young infants and pre-teenagers are still developing their immune systems. In such cases, the body may take a longer time to respond to such infections.
- People with case history – Those who have previously suffered from chronic diseases are at high risk. Conditions such as AIDS, liver diseases, and diabetes puts the patient at a higher risk of getting severe food poisoning. Patients whose immunity has fallen due to radiation or chemotherapy are equally at risk.
Food poisoning mainly causes dehydration, which is quite a severe complication. In too severe cases, the patient can die as well. In dehydration, the body loses essential minerals and salts. For normal adults, drinking lots of water and salt-sugar solutions can overcome the deficit easily. However, people who are suffering from severe diarrhoea and vomiting may need external treatment. ORS, isotonic solutions, and IV fluids are sometimes given to such patients.
Prevention and Treatment
The best way to prevent food poisoning is to take steps at home itself. For example, eating utensils, food surfaces, and your hands should be clean before and after eating. Separate the food types. Refrigerate every food possible. Before cooking, wash the food properly. While cooking, raise the temperature to a safe level and cook well. Undercooking should be avoided. Proper cooking kills most of the germs present in the food. Do not keep foods out in the open for long.
Also, when food smells or looks questionable, simply throw it away. Try to make most of your food habits at home itself. Try to avoid roadside stalls and low-class hotels.
Foods such as raw meat, eggs, fish, sprouts, vegetables, fruits, and milk should be thoroughly checked. These food items get contaminated easily. Hence, always try to make sure that your food is as clean and as well cooked or warmed as possible.
Types of Food Poisoning
Food poisoning is one of the most common types of disease that is mainly foodborne. Over time and with exposure, foods can get contaminated easily. Whenever toxins or pathogens are exposed to food, the food can cause gastrointestinal problems upon consumption. There are many types of food poisoning. The primary kind of classification is based on the pathogen type. The primary pathogens or the infection agents, such as parasites, viruses, or bacteria, cause different food poisoning severity. The related symptoms are different in each case as well.
Even though most cases of food poisoning causes problems in the stomach or intestine, other organs may get affected as well. In severe cases of food poisoning, organs such as the brain or kidney may get adversely affected. Different muscles in our body may get involved too.
In most cases, people suffering from food poisoning get cured within a day or two. The symptoms of food poisoning also usually go away in this duration. The most common symptoms include diarrhoea and vomiting. Usually, these abnormalities are cured on their own as the body starts to heal itself. However, in severe types of food poisoning, dehydration and painful cramps may take place. In such cases, external medical help is urgently required.
Overall Problems Faced with Food Poisoning
When food poisoning turns severe, it can cause many complications in the human body. If dehydration turns extreme, and patients cannot hold fluids in their body, then medical intervention is required. If ignored, the patient can even die from excessive loss of water from the body. In such cases, external IV fluids are given. Also, isotonic fluids are provided. ORS and salt-sugar solutions can prove to be very useful in this period.
As various organs in the body get affected during food poisoning, other complications may come up. For instance, when the brain gets infected, encephalopathy may occur.
Food Poisoning Prone Age Group
People who have a history of chronic diseases in the past are more susceptible to getting infected. Food poisoning may occur in everyone, but the critical factor is how efficiently the body deals with it. People with robust immunity systems are automatically at less risk.
Infants or very young children are highly prone to food poisoning infections as their immunity system is not fully developed. Listeria infections are common in such cases. Similarly, pregnant women are also at a high risk of getting infected. This can hamper the health of the baby as well. Also, AIDS patients and older adults are advised to take extra measures to prevent food poisoning as much as possible.
Such high-risk patients should altogether avoid foods such as blue cream cheese, camembert, or soft cheese.
General Duration of Food Poisoning
Depending upon the types of food poisoning, the duration can also vary. Usually, most food poisoning cases last for around 24 hours to 48 hours. Generally, they resolve automatically after that. However, mild food poisoning cases can also stay up to weeks. In such cases, checking the symptoms is vital. Longer duration with abnormal symptoms should always be checked upon with medical professionals.
Food Poisoning Types and Causes
Over 200 types of infections can cause different types of food poisoning. In most cases, bacteria, parasites, or viruses are the cause. Also, the toxins that are generated by these pathogens are direct factors in causing food poisoning. For example, botulism, one of the most common food poisoning cases, is caused by Staphylococcus aureus.
The types of food poisoning are mainly classified based on their causes and pathogens. Other factors include their symptom appearance period, duration, and effect.
The various types and causes of food poisoning are discussed below.
1. Undercooked and Stored Foods
When some foods are partially cooked or undercooked, chemical toxins are produced in nutrition. Consuming them will indeed cause food poisoning. For instance, shellfish causes food poisoning when it is partially cooked. This is because of the release of the chemical called histamine. The symptoms mainly include-
- Allergic reactions
- Swelling of face
- Itching in the body
- Difficulty while swallowing or breathing
Usually, the incubation period of this type of issue is around 16 hours a day.
Apart from undercooked food, chemicals may also get generated by exposure, fermentation, or simple introduction to foreign substances. In such cases, patients may experience different symptoms, depending on how the body reacts to the chemicals.
The incubation period is around 1 to 2 hours only. The most common symptoms include-
- Breathing difficulty
- Loss in stamina
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Continuous vomiting
- Aches in different muscles
Other neurological imbalance symptoms include-
- Loss of balance or ataxia
- Inducing hallucinations
- Tingling and numbness
If the body reacts badly, kidney and liver failure is possible too. In such cases, patients may even die if not treated on time.
Main infections from bacteria are caused by Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, and Clostridium perfringens. Other bacteria include Listeria, and cases such as Brucellosis may also occur. The incubation period of these bacteria is mainly between 1 to 6 hours. In some cases, the duration may extend to 12 hours as well.
Main symptoms include-
Undercooking rice or eating raw rice can cause such infections. Undercooked meat may cause diarrhoea. Drinking unpasteurized milk and milk products, with cheese and poultry meat are the major causes.
The main conditions caused by parasites include giardiasis, Amoebiasis, trichinosis, Cysticercosis, and Cyclospora infection.
In normal conditions, these infections may occur by consumption of river water or lake water. Sheep and other cattle continue to contaminate these water bodies. These infection types are highly infectious and can be easily transmitted from one person to another.
Other infections are caused by eating poorly cooked pork and bear meat. Tapeworm can cause seizures as well.
Most common symptoms from the parasitic type of food poisoning include-
- Gastrointestinal complications
- Pain in muscles
- Swelling in face
- Fingernail and eye bleeding
- Watery bowel
The most common type of treatment in such cases is antibiotic treatment. These infections may stay for several weeks before getting wholly cured.
Viruses are the cause of yet another type of food poisoning. The most common symptoms include-
The most common complication caused by the virus through food poisoning includes Hepatitis A. When an infected person handles food, the food becomes contaminated. This type should not be compared or confused with Hepatitis B or C, caused by blood exposure.
The most common type of disease caused by Protozoans includes Toxoplasmosis. The most common method of transmission includes contamination from cat faeces. The symptoms are mainly asymptomatic, and people with the weaker immune system may face more severe complications than others.
Lastly, we have prions. Also known as the mad cow disease, the Bovine Spongiform encephalopathy affects the neural regions. The most common methods of transmission include consuming foods that are already contained with prions.
The main symptoms include seizures and imbalance.
In severe cases, brain proteins get abnormally folded. Infected cows, upon killing, may transmit this infection.
Need for Medical Help
In most cases, you will recover from food poisoning without any hassle. Mild cases are nothing to worry about. Generally, such cases are cured within a few days. However, to know whether it is severe or not, make sure to understand the symptoms of food poisoning. If you see the duration and face anything abnormal, then taking medical help is recommended.
Medical help is especially required if you are extremely dehydrated. Check for bloody stools or vomit as well. If you have severe pain in the abdomen or diarrhoea lasts for more than three days, visit a doctor immediately. Fever with a temperature higher than 38 degrees Celsius, or 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit should be checked as well. Neurological symptoms like muscle weakness, arm tingling sensations, and blurry vision can also occur. In all such cases, do not hesitate to consult a doctor and undergo treatments as prescribed.
In most cases, food poisoning gets healed without having to do anything. However, patients should not wait when symptoms are abnormal. To understand what the abnormalities are, one must be aware of the types of food poisoning.
Whenever the cases may feel out of hand, or if the duration is prolonged, you should contact doctors. Getting medical help at the right time can help in preventing future complications.