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The Food Poisoning 411

May 04, 2019

As the weather warms up, you are probably thinking about spending more time outdoors. And, of course, you will have to pick out the perfect snacks for these outings. As fun as this all sounds, it can quickly become dangerous if you're not careful.

Unfortunately, a bunch of bacteria are every bit as excited about your summertime picnics as you are. One such bacterium is called salmonella.

Salmonella can cause an infection of the digestive system called salmonellosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 1.2 million salmonella infections occur in the United States each year.

People typically develop symptoms between 12 and 72 hours after becoming infected. So, what are the symptoms of salmonella infection?

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever or chills
  • Headache
  • Blood in stool

Salmonellosis symptoms last for four to seven days on average and resolve without treatment for most people. However, an estimated 450 people die from the disease each year. Young children, older adults and those with weakened immune systems are at risk for more severe infections.

If you have signs of severe dehydration, seek medical attention right away.

These signs include the following:

  • Decreased urine output
  • Dry mouth and tongue
  • Sunken eyes
  • Lethargy (lack of energy)

How do you get salmonella? It can spread via the following:

  • Food handlers who do not wash their hands
  • People eating raw or undercooked foods
  • From animals (poultry and reptiles) to people
  • Pets who’ve eaten contaminated food

Some individuals are more susceptible to salmonella infection:

  • Those who use antacids
  • Those who have inflammatory bowel disease
  • Those who have a recent history of antibiotic use
  • Those who are immune-compromised
  • Those who travel to countries with poor sanitation

How can you prevent foodborne illness at home?

Here are some tips:

  • After washing the interior of your refrigerator or freezer, cutting boards, counters and utensils, sanitize with bleach solution (one tablespoon of bleach mixed into one gallon of hot water). Dry everything with a clean cloth or paper towel.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water after handling food, using the toilet, touching pet food or feces and sanitizing the kitchen.
  • Refrigerate or freeze unused portions of food immediately.
  • Separate raw meat from other items in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Never eat food off of a plate that held raw meat or eggs or with a utensil that touched those items.
  • Do not consume raw eggs.

You can report adverse events related to food products at FDA.gov.

Written by Digital Pharmacist Staff

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