Food Poisoning: Symptoms, Causes and Diagnosis
Food poisoning is also called as food-borne illness. The illness is caused by eating contaminated food. The most common causes of food poisoning are infectious organisms such as, bacteria, viruses and parasites or their toxins.
The bacteria could be salmonella or Escherichia coli (E. coli) and the virus, norovirus.
Infectious organisms or their toxins can contaminate food at any point of processing or production. Contamination can also occur at home if food is incorrectly handled or cooked.
It is not usually serious and most people get better within a few days without treatment.
Symptoms can vary depending on the source of the infection. The length of time it takes for symptoms to appear also depends on the source of the infection. It can range from as little as 1 hour to as long as 28 days. Sickness caused by food poisoning generally lasts from a few hours to several days.
Most types of food poisoning cause one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
If you experience any of the following signs or symptoms contact your doctor.
Food can become contaminated at any stage during production, processing or cooking. Most often the cause of contamination is the transfer of harmful organisms from one surface to another. This especially happens in case of raw, ready-to-eat foods, such as salads or other produce. Pathogens can be found on almost all of the food that humans eat. However, heat from cooking usually kills pathogens on food. Because the raw foods are not cooked, harmful organisms are not destroyed before eating and can cause food poisoning.
Meat, eggs, and dairy products are frequently contaminated. Water may also be contaminated with organisms that cause illness.
Food can be contaminated by:
Food poisoning can be diagnosed based on a detailed history, your symptoms and specific foods you have eaten. In severe cases, blood tests, stool tests, and tests on food that you have eaten may be conducted to determine what is responsible for the food poisoning. Sometimes a urine test can be done to evaluate whether an individual is dehydrated as a result of food poisoning.
A stool culture is done by sending a sample of your stool to a laboratory, where a technician will try to identify the infectious organism. If an organism is found, your doctor likely will notify your local health department to determine if the food poisoning is linked to an outbreak.