What you need to know about food poisoning – how to avoid it and how to cope when it strikes
Food poisoning is very common, and most of us will experience a bout of it at some point in our lives. The severity will vary, but three of the main symptoms remain the same: nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting. Other symptoms may include stomach pains, loss of appetite, cramps, a temperature and other flu-like symptoms such as chills or muscle pain too.
What causes food poisoning?
Food poisoning is caused by a virus or bacteria. The most common cause of food poisoning is from bacteria found in raw or undercooked meat, unpasteurised milk and unclean water. Leading causes of food poisoning include improper heating of food, not storing food at the correct temperature and eating food touched by someone who is sick.
What should I do if I think I have it?
When you have food poisoning, you’re at risk of dehydration due to all the fluid loss with vomiting and diarrhoea. If you become dehydrated, this will slow down your recovery – so it’s important to drink at least two litres of water a day while you’re sick. If you are an older person or already have health issues, supplement your water intake with Dioralyte sachets, which are available in pharmacies and can be added to water.
Stick to foods that are easily digested, and eat smaller meals more frequently rather than a big breakfast, lunch or dinner. Try toast, crackers and bananas. Avoid spicy or fatty foods, as well as smoking or drinking alcohol.
Make sure you get enough rest too. Take it easy while your symptoms persist.
How can I avoid it?
Washing your hands is key to avoiding the spread of food poisoning. Always wash your hands after using the bathroom, and wash worktops and dishcloths or towels regularly. Keep chopping boards for raw meat separated from other boards, to avoid contaminating other foods.
Make sure you always cook food thoroughly and store raw meat on the bottom shelf in your fridge to avoid it dripping onto other foods. All raw meat can carry harmful bacteria on its exterior, which means it is a significant risk for causing food poisoning.
When should I see a doctor?
Usually symptoms clear up by themselves in a few days as the virus or bacteria works its way out of your system. If you have been vomiting for longer than two days and don’t feel the bug is passing, see your GP for advice.
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