There’s nothing quite like that awful sense of regret and vague betrayal you feel when you get food poisoning. You often find yourself thinking things like, “If only I hadn’t eaten that!” Or “If only I hadn't gone to that restaurant!” Food poisoning may not be fun to deal with, but there are steps that you can take to prevent it from striking.

Gathering Knowledge

The first thing to do to combat food poisoning is to be knowledgeable about what it is and how it spreads. Food poisoning, also known as food-borne illness, is defined as an illness borne from eating contaminated food. The most common food contaminants are bacteria, parasites, and viruses, and they can contaminate food at any point in the production process, including up to when they are in your home.

Taking Preventative Measures

You can protect yourself from food poisoning from the time you go to the grocery store to when you put your food on the table. The first thing you should do when you’re cooking food at home is always wash your hands and cooking surfaces, and cooking utensils before, during, and after preparing your food.

The most common carriers of contaminants are raw proteins such as raw meat, seafood, eggs, and poultry. Keeping these foods separate from the rest of your groceries can lessen the chance of food contamination, both in your shopping cart and in your kitchen.

These foods should also be prepared in a different spot in the kitchen and with different utensils than the other food, unless you wash them thoroughly before using them on other food.

You should always cook these foods until they reach an internal temperature that kills all of the contagions that may be on them. Using a food thermometer is helpful for ensuring this.

While they are waiting to be cooked, these foods should be kept in the refrigerator at 40° F (4.5° C) or below. If they have been in a hot car for more than an hour they are not safe to eat even if they are cooked thoroughly afterwards.

Always wash your fruits and vegetables before you eat them. There are products that you can buy that help get chemicals off of them.

Noticing Symptoms Early

While it is best to avoid food poisoning altogether, no one is perfect. Knowing the symptoms of food poisoning and being able to identify them early is important to recovery. The most common symptoms of food poisoning are:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • cramps
  • diarrhea

 

They usually set in anywhere from a few hours to a few days after eating the contaminated food.

 

If you notice these symptoms coming on, don’t try to muscle through. Allow your body to rest while it rides out the illness. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Listen to your body and give it time to heal.

Know When to Seek Professional Help

Most cases of food poisoning can be taken care of by bed rest and allowing it to burn itself out. But in rare cases, you may need to seek professional assistance. Signs that you need to go to a hospital include:

 

  • bloody vomit or stools
  • inability to keep liquids down
  • frequent vomiting
  • severe abdominal cramping
  • diarrhea that lasts longer than 3 days
  • an oral temperature that is more than 100.8° F (38° C)
  • symptoms of dehydration, which include extreme thirst, dizziness or lightheadedness, little or no urination, dry mouth and feeling very weak.
  • neurological symptoms, which include blurry vision, tingling in the arms, and muscle weakness

 

While it is rare that this occurs, it is still important to learn the signs.

 

Food poisoning is no fun, but with the right knowledge and preventative measures in your arsenal, you can effectively combat any contagion that crosses your path.

 

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