Perhaps at least once in your lifetime, you’ve had to endure the nightmare of having food poisoning. If you haven’t yet, prepare yourself for the inevitable. It is estimated that one out of every six Americans are affected by food poisoning every year, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die due to food born illnesses. If you searched for “How do I know if I have food poisoning” or “What do you if you have food poisoning”, you may already be a victim.

What is food poisoning?

Food poisoning is the consumption of food or water that is contaminated with bacteria and/or its toxins, viruses, chemicals, or parasites that cause illness. Most of the time, food poisoning is self limiting and will resolve all on its own without treatment with only ten percent cases require some sort of antibiotics.

What are the symptoms of food poisoning?

The symptoms of mild food poisoning depend on the type of organism that has invaded your body and may include:

  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • headache
  • bloating
  • nausea

Any kind of treatment is aimed at relieving those symptoms. Sometimes, the symptoms of mild food poisoning may last less than a day or go as long as up to two weeks. There are some cases where food born illnesses are more serious. Diarrhea lasting for more than two weeks can lead to complications. Symptoms of dry mouth, accelerated heart rate, dizziness, and decreased sweat production can be an indication of severe dehydration. Fever is an indication of an inflammatory process of the bowels, which will commonly include bloody diarrhea. Also, fever can indicate that the invading organism has moved outside of your gastrointestinal tract where it can cause more damage. There has also been reported cases where individuals suffered from kidney, liver, and brain dysfunction. Although, those dysfunctions are highly unlikely to occur, be on the look out for increased abdominal girth, yellowing of the skin or eyes, decreased urine output, or abnormal neurological symptoms. A more serious complication of food poisoning is a syndrome called reactive arthritis which will exhibit symptoms of painful joints, ocular irritation, and dysuria (painful urination). Reactive arthritis can last for years and may lead to chronic arthritis.

What is the treatment for food poisoning?

With many cases of food poisoning only being mild, treatment is aimed at the complications, which are usually dehydration and electrolyte imbalances due to the vomiting and diarrhea.

Mild cases: Replenish yourself with fluids such as gatorade or smart water. Antidiarrheals such as Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol, and Imodium can help combat those liquid stools. In the meantime, try to avoid dairy products, as they can make diarrhea worse. Antiemetics such as promethazine are questionable due to the fact that you are probably unable to hold anything down, but if you can, those drugs are helpful for the prevention of vomiting.

More serious cases: You may be wondering “Should I see a doctor for food poisoning?” In more severe cases the answer is yes, especially if you are suffering from severe dehydration. Some of the signs can be little to no urine, dry eyes, mouth and tongue, accelerated heartbeat and breathing, dizziness or if you are feeling overly lethargic.  Additionally, if you think you may have food poisoning from eating canned food that can be very dangerous if you have botulism, as that can be deadly. Botulism symptoms include blurred vision, double vision, difficulty swallowing, feelings of extreme weakness and trouble breathing.

When to call your doctor

 You will want to seek professional medical treatment if you have any of the following:
  • Severe diarrhea for more than 2 days with loose stools every 1 to 2 hours .
  • Vomiting that lasts more than a day.
  • If you are pregnant
  • On onset of severe belly pain.

Pregnant women,  children, and people with chronic conditions are most susceptible and should be monitored closely. However anyone with diarrhea that last longer than a week call a doctor to get professional medical advice.

Different Types of Foodborne Illnesses

So what are all of those pesky organisms that are causing all of your woes? We’ll discuss the most common ones.

Norovirus: If you have food poisoning, you are five times more likely to have this virus as opposed to Salmonella and is the most common cause of gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and/or intestines). Norovirus is very contagious, spreading from person to person, contaminated food or water, or coming into contact with contaminated surfaces. An infection with Norovirus usually resolves within three days.

Salmonella: If a food born illness has landed you in the hospital, this bug is the most likely culprit and is also the leading cause of death by a food born illnesses. This organism is usually found in undercooked meat such as chicken and ground beef. Raw eggs and unpasteurized milk products can also house the organism. Less known places Salmonella can be found is in peanut butter, dry dog food, and mango. A low grade fever may be present with this infection, and in some cases, bloody diarrhea. Salmonella can last up to twelve days before your body’s defenses regain control.

Clostridium perfringens (C. perfringens): Have you ever had that bug that lasted less than a day? This is the bacteria to blame and is the third leading cause of food poisoning. This spore forming bacteria, like Salmonella, is also found on raw meat and poultry. Surprisingly, this bacteria is also found in the intestines of humans and animals, but (usually) at low enough levels where it doesn’t cause harm. The harm comes when large amounts are ingested and the bacteria produce large amounts of toxins. C. perfringens does not present with fever or vomiting and cannot be transmitted between people.

Campylobacter: This is the fourth leading cause of food poisoning and is one of those bugs that can cause bloody stools and fever on top of the other typical symptoms of food poisoning. Similarly to Salmonella and C. perfringens, Campylobacter is also found on raw or undercooked meat and poultry, unpasteurized milk, and can spread via cross contamination. This infection usually lasts between two and five days.

Enterotoxic Escherichia coli: For those of you that travel, this is the bug that most likely causes what is known as Traveler’s Diarrhea. You’re likely to pick up this bug in the developing countries of Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. One can experience four to five loose, watery stools per day with accompanying nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping. Be careful what and where you eat, as this bug is picked up by ingesting contaminated food and water. Some have considered taking antibiotics before their trip to prevent Traveler’s Diarrhea. This is not recommended as this can cause drug resistant bacteria to develop. Traveler’s Diarrhea usually last for up to two days. E. coli has also been found to invade spinach. This Enterohemorrhagic sort of E. coli can affect the blood and cause microscopic clots to form within the capillaries and usually lasts between three and eight days.

Less common occurrences of food poisoning are caused by Clostridium botulinum, Shigella, Yersinia, Staphylococcus aureus, parasitic food poisoning, and heavy metal poisoning (mercury, lead, and arsenic). Although botulism (a syndrome caused by toxins released by C. botulinum) is rare, it has a high mortality rate. The toxin can cause muscular paralysis that can affect the respiratory system. If you have been told not to feed honey to young children, this is the reason why. It can also be found in canned foods and an antitoxin is given for treatment.

Can you file a lawsuit for food poisoning?

If there was negligence on the part of the restaurant, company or entity, you can file a lawsuit for food poisoning. To win a food poisoning case, you will need a food poisoning lawyer that can help you prove that the food you ate was the cause of your illness.  Additionally, you will have had to been diagnosed with illness from a specific pathogen, by a medical professional. Was it E. Coli, Listeria, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Hepatitis A? This is important to know. Many people want to know “How much is my case worth for food poisoning?” This will depend on a many different factors such as the severity of your illness, did you lose time from work, what are your medical bills associated with the food poisoning, as well as many other factors. The only way to know is to speak with a food poisoning lawsuit lawyer who has extensive experience handling food poisoning lawsuits and have him analyze your case.

The majority of all food poisoning lawyers handle food poisoning lawsuits on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay them anything unless they win your case.

Food Poisoning Prevention

To prevent experiencing food poisoning, it is important to practice good hygiene, cook all foods thoroughly, avoid cross-contamination, and keep foods at appropriate temperatures that prevent bacterial growth. Remember, raw eggs are also a source of food poisoning, so for all you weight lifters who like to take a shot eggs and for all the bakers out there that like cake or cookie batter, that may not be the best idea. Good hygiene is especially important if a family member already has food poisoning, as some organisms can be spread from person to person. And be sure to use different cutting boards when preparing meats and keep your kitchen surfaces clean to prevent unwanted cross-contamination. It may be helpful to purchases different colored cutting boards and assigning them a certain type of food. Generally, foods should be stored in temperatures that are less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit while foods that are cooked should reach a minimum of 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but the more extreme the temperatures, the better.