Food Poisoning: Causes, Symptoms & When to See Your Doctor

You might think food poisoning is a simple and insignificant medical problem, but did you know that approximately 3,000 Americans die from complications related to food poisoning every year? 48 million, or 1 in 6, Americans get sick of some form of food poisoning. Food poisoning is also known as foodborne illness. Unfortunately, food poisoning happens still too often, and while it’s easily preventable. A few simple prevention tips are washing raw produce well in clean water, avoiding cross-contamination, and refrigerating or freezing leftovers within 2 hours of cooking to keep bacteria from breeding. Knowing how to recognize this illness and when to contact a professional healthcare provider is super important, as complications can be life-threatening.

Causes of Food Poisoning
Foodborne illness happens when you swallow contaminated food or drinks. This means that the product you consumed is infected with the toxic organism(s), like bacteria, fungi, parasites, and/or viruses. In some cases, the byproduct of these organisms makes you sick. When you consume these toxic organisms, your body will react by getting rid of these toxins as quickly as possible.

Contamination can occur throughout the entire production process; during the product’s growing, harvesting, and preparation. This can occur, for example, through cross-contamination, or in other words, the transfer of, in this case, harmful organisms from one surface to another. For example, cutting raw vegetables on a cutting board after cutting raw meats or fish – without washing your kitchen accessories.

Who Is at Risk for Food Poisoning?
Foodborne illness doesn’t have to be dangerous, but some high-risk groups can have serious complications. Groups that should take extra care with what they consume to avoid food poisoning include:

  • Senior citizens; the immune system doesn’t respond as fast as in younger people
  • Pregnant women; changes in the metabolism & circulation can increase your chances of getting sick.
  • Infants & young children; immune systems aren’t completely developed yet
  • People with weakened immune systems; like people with diabetes, AIDS, or people undergoing chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

Continue reading on the next page, and find out, among others, how you can recognize food poisoning and when you should see a doctor.