What to Do When You Have Food Poisoning; You do not necessarily need to seek medical help to treat food poisoning; it can be treated at home. In fact, the home therapy can be so reliable that many of the affected individuals get relived within days. One of the ways to manage food poisoning is to drink a lot of water to forestall dehydration. Food poisoning can result in diarrhea and vomiting, leading to dehydration.
Foods contaminated by toxins and bacteria can lead to food poisoning. Some items are also naturally poisonous and can culminate in food poisoning if they are consumed together with food. After few days of bacterial food poisoning, the manifestations tend to subside naturally. The symptoms can subside without using any drug because you stop ingesting the causative organism. Be that as it may, you can speed up the recovery process and also make yourself feel better by taking certain actions. However, seeking medical attention may better the only solution if the symptoms are severe.
Other things to do include:
- Getting adequate rest
- Eating whenever you feel like eating. Do not eat much each time and restrict your diet to non-fatty and light meals. You can also consider foods, like bananas, rice, crackers, and toast.
- Also, stay away from foods, like fatty foods, spicy, fizzy drinks, caffeine, and alcohol. Such foods can worsen the situation.
If the symptoms persist after trying the home remedies described above for few days, then it is time to get down to the hospital.
What to Do When You Have Food Poisoning
How to manage food poisoning at home:
1. Consume lot of fluids and liquid
The human body loses fluid and dehydration sets in due to frequent vomiting and diarrhea that occurs after food poisoning. On what to do when you have food poisoning, you can put the dehydration at bay by drinking a lot of fluid or liquid, like water. This will help to replace the fluid you have lost. You do not need to take a large gulp of the drink; you can also curb the dehydration problem by sipping small quantity of the fluid at a time.
You should not hesitate to consult a doctor if you find it difficult to keep down the fluid you are drinking. At the hospital, the doctor will give you fluid infusion to replace the fluid you have lost.
You can take juice, decaffeinated tea or water. You can also drink soup or broth. Popsicles or ice chips will also be a great idea; they can help to replace your lost fluids and nutrients.
2. Gradually start eating bland foods
You should start taking BRAT foods gradually as you are feeling nausea and hungry. BRAT stands for Banana, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast. Research shows that these foods can calm down your stomach and also do not lead to vomiting or nausea.
Some other foods you should consider are soft cooked vegetables, mashed potatoes, and saltines. These foods do not lead to stomach upset, unlike several other foods. While eating, do not eat in a rush or force the food down.
3. Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS)
If you are vulnerable to the effects of dehydration, like loss of nutrients, you will benefit a lot from ORS. The elderly usually fall into this category most, especially if they have a pre-existing health condition. ORS is a very effective measure to apply when you have food poisoning.
You can buy ORS from pharmacies; they are sold in sachets. Open the sachet and pour its content into a glass cup of water, stir to dissolve and drink. Drinking ORS will help to replenish your glucose, salt and any other mineral you might have lost due to dehydration and vomiting.
Not everyone can take ORS. Some forms of ORS may not be advisable for individuals having any kidney-related problem. You can ask your pharmacist about the best type of ORS for you.
4. Take rehydration fluid
Rehydration fluids are formed by pouring a particular powder into water, mixing it to dissolve and drinking it. Rehydration fluid, aside from replacing the water you have lost, can also replace the nutrients and minerals that were lost during vomiting and diarrhea. Rehydration fluids can be bought over the counter in your local pharmacy stores.
Also, you can prepare rehydration fluid at home by folioing the instructions below:
- Firstly, pour half a teaspoon of salt inside a cup of water
- Then, add half a teaspoon of baking soda to it.
- Next, add four tablespoons of sugar to the mixture.
- You will need up to one liter of water to prepare the solution.
- Continue to stir until the mixtures dissolve and it forms a homogenous solution
Instead of going through the stress of preparing your rehydration fluid, you can opt for the already prepared rehydration solution sold in pharmacy stores around. A good example of such pre-made rehydration solution is Hydralyte or Pedialyte, which works perfectly for children who suffer from food poisoning leading to vomiting or diarrhea. If the patient is an older kid or an adult, you can opt for either Powerade or Gatorade.
5. Avoid taking dairy products for the time being
It is time to avoid dairy products at least for few days until you are fully recovered from the vomiting and diarrhea. While you are experiencing food poisoning, your digestive system will still be suffering from lactose intolerance. Consuming dairy products at such an instance can further complicate this lactose intolerance situation. Never take any dairy product until you have fully recovered. Examples of dairy products to avoid are
6. Do not allow the infection to spread
You should avoid preparing food that other will eat when you are fighting food poisoning. Also, you should try not to make body contact with anyone, especially vulnerable individuals, like the very young or elderly. You can stay off school or work for at least 48 hours after diarrhea has stopped.
Is anyone you are staying with suffering from food poisoning? You can do the following:
- See to it that everyone at home get their hands washed using warm water and soap on a regular basis, especially after they have used the toilet and before preparing meals.
- Make sure all surfaces are cleaned, like basins, taps, flush handles, toilet seats and other surfaces.
- See to it that everyone at home has his or her flannels and towels
- Use the hottest setting on your washing machine when washing the laundry for any affected member of the family.
7. Keep away from any food that can lead to nausea or vomiting
Keeping away from foods that can lead to nausea or vomiting is a very good measure of what to do when you have food poisoning. Foods that can cause nausea and vomiting will rarely sound attractive if you have food poisoning. Examples of the foods you should avoid are fatty and spicy foods. These foods are somewhat difficult to digest.
Foods rich in fiber should also be reduced in the meantime. Good examples of such foods are:
- Whole grains
8. Do not take alcohol or caffeine
You may feel worse if you take alcohol or caffeine if you have food poisoning. Avoid them, therefore, in your best interest. These foods are known to be diuretics; that is, they will make you urinate more. Urinating frequently can lead to dehydration, and this can make diarrhea and vomiting worse.
Report the case of food poisoning to the authorities
You should never hesitate to report to your local environmental health department if you feel the food poisoning has come from a food outlet or restaurant.
The case may be investigated by the environmental health officers if they think it is necessary. They can also work with the owners of the food outlets to help them improve the hygiene of the food they prepare and sell to the general public to prevent the food poisoning from occurring again.
Additional treatment when you have food poisoning
If you are more vulnerable to infection or the symptoms you are experiencing are persistent and severe, further treatment may be necessary for you. This is usually the case with individuals that are having an underlying health condition or the elderly.
At the hospital, there may be need to carry out certain tests on your stool sample. This way, they can detect what is causing the problem. The test can also help them to determine the right antibiotic to use in managing the problem. However, antibiotics are only required if the problem is caused by a bacteria.
Also, you will benefit a lot from anti-emetics, which are drugs used in stopping vomiting, especially if the vomiting is severe.
Finally, there may be need to admit you to the hospital for some days so that healthcare professionals, who may need to infuse you with fluid and also monitor your state of health for some days.
What are the factors responsible for food poisoning?
Sometimes people mistake the difference between food poisoning and stomach flu. Although both possess a bit similarity in signs, fever, muscle aches and headaches are the distinct signs of stomach flu in comparison to food poisoning. People eating the same food from the same plate are prone to developing food poisoning together. This can be the case after eating at a restaurant, large social functions, school cafeteria, and picnics. The germs get into the food and get it contaminated. This contamination can take various routes as highlighted below:
- When poultry is being processed, it can contact harmful bacteria from the intestine to the concerned animals
- Water used in shipping or growing foods can contain human or animal wastes, leading to their contamination
- Handling of foods in an unsafe manner when they are being prepared or processed at home, restaurants, grocery stores and so on.
- Foods being prepared by someone that does not wash the hands
- Foods prepared with utensils that are not clean well, like cutting boards, and other cooking utensils.
- Foods that are rich in mayonnaise or other dairy products and stored for too long in the refrigerator.
- Raw oyster or fish
- Raw vegetables or fruits that are not properly washed
- Undercooked eggs or meats
- Water from stream, well or own water supply that iOS not treated properly
Examples of organisms that can cause food poisoning are:
- Clostridium perfringes
- Clostridium botulinum
- Giardia lambia
- Escherichia coli
- Hepatitis A
- Vibrio vulnificus
- Staphylococcus aureus
Food poisoning can easily affect older people and infants more than others. It is also easier to get food poisoning if you are under the following conditions:
- Serious medical conditions, like HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, etc
- Weak immune system
- Traveling to areas where one can get exposed to any germ that can lead to food poisoning.
It is imperative for a breastfeeding or pregnant woman to avoid food poisoning.
Sources and References:
Craig SA. Gastroenteritis. In Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 94.
Mody RK, Griffin PM. Foodborne disease. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 103.
Schiller LR, Sellin JH. Diarrhea. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran’s Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 16.