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Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is an illness that causes irritation of your digestive system. When your food or beverage is contaminated with a virus, bacteria, toxin or parasite, you’re at risk of food poisoning.

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What causes food poisoning?

Food poisoning is most often caused by a virus, bacteria, parasite or toxin. These germs enter your digestive system when you eat contaminated food or beverages. Improper food handling is a major cause of food poisoning.

When consumed, contaminated food can wreak havoc on your gastrointestinal tract. This can result in a range of uncomfortable symptoms. However, food poisoning generally passes quickly, and there are treatments to help you through it.

The most common sources of food poisoning are:

Bacteria

  • Listeria from unwashed produce

  • E. coli from raw or undercooked meat and/or unwashed produce

  • Campylobacter from undercooking

  • Salmonella from undercooking

  • Staphylococcus from unrefrigerated food

  • Shigella from untreated water or foods contaminated by an infected person


Toxins

  • Ciguatera (produced by algae) from contaminated reef fish

  • Botulism (produced by bacteria) from damaged canned goods

Food Poisoning Symptoms

The symptoms of food poisoning can vary depending on the specific cause of the illness. The onset of symptoms can start within 30 minutes to two weeks of eating contaminated food.

WellNow’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Robert Biernbaum, says,

"If you find yourself here due to symptoms like nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea, you may be experiencing food poisoning."

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea, with or without bloody stools

  • Stomach pain and cramps

  • Fever

  • Headache

The range and severity of your symptoms can differ based on which virus or bacteria was involved. Rarely, food poisoning affects the nervous system and causes severe disease.

  • Blurred or double vision

  • Headache

  • Trouble swallowing

  • Loss of movement in limbs

  • Skin tingling or numbness

  • Weakness

Vomiting and diarrhea can quickly cause dehydration, which is a low level of body fluids. For infants and children, this is a serious condition. Call your child's pediatrician or consult with a WellNow medical provider if your child's symptoms are concerning, or if your child’s vomiting and diarrhea occur with any of the following:


  • Neurological changes

  • Excessive thirst

  • Little or no urination

  • Diarrhea that lasts more than a day

  • Persistent vomiting

  • Dark stools

  • Severe stomach pain

  • Any fever in children under 2 years of age

  • Fever of 102 F (38.9 C) or higher in older children

Adults should see their primary care physician or visit a WellNow Urgent Care Center for the following symptoms:


  • Neurological symptoms

  • Fever of 103 F (39.4 C)

  • Persistent vomiting

  • Diarrhea that lasts more than three days

  • Symptoms of dehydration, such as excessive thirst, dry mouth, or little to no urination.

How to Treat Food Poisoning

Food poisoning may cause dehydration so drink water and avoid taking anti-diarrheals without doctor approval. Anti-nausea medication can also be prescribed.

To treat food poisoning, start by drinking plenty of fluids. Include beverages that aid in replenishing the loss of salts and electrolytes from your body. This can include clear broths or products like Pedialyte and Gatorade.

Once your stomach has settled, you can try eating foods that are gentle on your digestive system, like plain toast, saltine crackers, bananas and plain rice are a few suggestions.

Avoid alcohol, sugary drinks, and caffeine.

Antibiotics or prescription medications can help with food poisoning, if advised by your medical provider.

Food poisoning usually comes on quickly. Fortunately, it passes fairly quickly as well. Most people recover from food poisoning within 24-48 hours.

  • Frequently wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after using the toilet; changing diapers; and eating, preparing and handling food.

  • Wash your fruits and vegetables before preparation and before eating them.

  • Make sure your food is properly cooked. (Norovirus, in particular, can withstand temperatures of up to 140 F.) The USDA recommends the following temperatures for meat: whole cuts of pork, beef, veal and lamb: 145 F (62.8 C) with 3-minute resting time; ground pork, beef, veal and lamb: 160 F (71.1 C); poultry: 165 F (73.9 C)

  • Use separate cutting boards and plates for raw meats.

  • Keep raw meats away from other foods in the refrigerator.

  • Refrigerate food within 2 hours of purchase.

  • Keep the refrigerator temperature below 40°

  • Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, cold water, or the microwave – never the counter.

For more information and tips on how to avoid food poisoning, visit FoodSafety.gov

When should you visit urgent care for food poisoning treatment?

If you or your child are experiencing any of the food poisoning symptoms listed above, seek the expertise of a medical provider. Check in online or walk in to a WellNow Urgent Care Center near you.

"Our dedicated medical team, under my guidance, is here to provide prompt and efficient care to help alleviate your symptoms and restore your health."

Dr. Robert Biernbaum

Our experienced healthcare team is committed to delivering prompt and professional care. With over 180 urgent care locations, we're confident a convenient clinic is nearby. Your well-being is our priority, and we look forward to providing you with the care you deserve.

This medical information has been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Robert Biernbaum, Chief Medical Officer for WellNow Urgent Care.


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