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- Food poisoning facts
- What is food poisoning?
- What are the signs and symptoms of food poisoning?
- Are food poisoning and stomach flu the same thing?
- How long does food poisoning last?
- What are the types of food poisoning?
- What are the causes of food poisoning?
- Short incubation of less than 16 to 24 hours
- Intermediate incubation from about 1 to 3 days
- Long incubation of 3 to 5 days
- Very long incubation of up to a month
- When should the doctor be called for food poisoning?
- How is food poisoning diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for food poisoning?
- Are there any home remedies for food poisoning?
- How can food poisoning be prevented?
- What are the complications of food poisoning?
- What is the prognosis for someone with food poisoning?
Quick GuideUncommon and Common Food-Poisoning Dangers in Pictures
What are the causes of food poisoning?
There many causes of food poisoning. Sometimes they are classified by how quickly the symptoms begin after eating potentially contaminated food. Think of this as the incubation time from when food enters the body until symptoms begin. The following are examples of how this time classification can be arranged:
Short incubation of less than 16 to 24 hours
- Scrombroid poisoning usually is due to poorly cooked or stored fish. The affected person will experience flushing, shortness of breath, and difficulty swallowing within 1 to 2 hours of eating.
- Ciguatera poisoning is another fish toxin that occurs after eating fish such as grouper, snapper, and barracuda. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, muscle aches, and neurologic complaints including headache, numbness and tingling, hallucinations, and difficulty with balance (ataxia).
- Mushroom ingestions can cause initial symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. Eating Amanita mushrooms can cause liver and kidney failure leading to death.
- Staphylococcus aureus poisoning is due to a toxin that is pre-formed in food before it is eaten. It causes vomiting within 1 to 6 hours after eating the contaminated food.
- Bacillus cereus is an infection that occurs after eating poorly cooked or raw rice.
- Clostridium perfringens produces a spore that may germinate in cooked meat that has been stored in an environment that was too warm. Within 8 to 12 hours, it may cause profuse diarrhea.
Intermediate incubation from about 1 to 3 days
- Campylobacter, according to CDC data, is the number one cause of food-borne disease in the United States.
- Shigella spp contaminate food and water and cause dysentery (severe diarrhea often containing mucus and blood).
- Salmonella infections often occur because of poorly or undercooked cooked, and poor handling of the chicken and eggs. In individuals with weakened immune systems, including the elderly, the infection can enter the bloodstream and cause potentially life-threatening infections.
- Vibrio parahaemolyticus can contaminate saltwater shellfish and cause a watery diarrhea.
Diarrhea due to small bowel infection tends not to be bloody, but infections may affect both the small and large intestine at the same time.
- E. coli (enterotoxigenic) is the most common cause of traveler's diarrhea. It lacks symptoms such as fever or bloody diarrhea.
- Vibrio cholerae, often from contaminated drinking, water produces a voluminous watery diarrhea resembling rice-water.
- Viruses such as Norwalk, rotavirus and adenovirus tend to have other symptoms associated with an infection including fever, chills, headache, and vomiting.
- Botulism is caused by Clostridium botulinum toxin and may present with fever, vomiting, mild diarrhea, numbness, and weakness leading to paralysis.