What to do in the event of food poisoning?

If there are pathogens on the food, the first signs of food poisoning can quickly appear: abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. What helps, how you can protect yourself

Text in simple language Our content is pharmaceutically and medically tested

Actually, the bee sting was delicious. But a few hours later, the intestines grumble. Then it's quick. Vomiting, diarrhea, severe abdominal pain. Was it because of the bee sting? Quite possible, because the symptoms suggest food poisoning. Especially when the friend, who also tasted the bee sting, feels the same way.

Food Poisoning or Food Infection?

Many people understand the same thing about the terms "food poisoning" and "food infection". There is a difference: food poisoning is not an infection, so it is not contagious either. As the name suggests, behind food poisoning are toxins, so-called toxins, which are either already formed by bacteria in the food and enter the gastrointestinal tract through the food or arise after the pathogen has been absorbed into the body . Most of the time, food poisoning is the result of bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, bacteria rarely come Bacillus cereus- Group and Clostridium species.

In the case of a food infection, on the other hand, the pathogen enters the gastrointestinal tract, multiplies there and causes complaints. The classic triggers of a food infection include campylobacter bacteria, salmonella and listeria. EHEC bacteria, Yersinia, hepatitis, noro- and rotaviruses can also be found in food and lead to illness. The pathogens can sit on the same foods as those that cause food poisoning.

Which foods are susceptible to pathogens?

Food such as meat, poultry or fish can be carriers of pathogens. Even raw eggs - whether "pure" or processed into dips, cake fillings and cream ice cream -, lettuce, potato salad, raw milk and cheese made from raw milk sometimes contain pathogens. Clostridium botulinumSince it can only grow and multiply without oxygen, the bacterium that occurs mainly in canned food and vacuum-packed food - but only very rarely.

The toxin of this pathogen is a neurotoxin that, in addition to nausea and diarrhea, can lead to visual disturbances and paralysis - botulism. The poisoning can be life-threatening and lead to respiratory arrest. If such symptoms occur - typically 12 to 36 hours after eating in the case of botulism - you must consult a doctor immediately, and if in doubt, call an emergency doctor.

Be careful with bloated cans

If a tin can looks bloated, you should definitely dispose of it or hand it in at the local food control authority. Because inflated cans can indicate the botulism pathogen. The main danger does not come from finished products, but from canned food that has been cooked in, according to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment.
If a food smells or tastes strange, it is better to stay away from it. Because bacterial infestation can become noticeable in this way, but it doesn't have to be. A bee sting can also taste delicious and still be full of salmonella or staphylococci.

Symptoms: what is the course of a foodborne illness?

The first signs of food poisoning - typically nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and possibly diarrhea - appear quickly. This usually happens within a few hours after the toxin enters the body. Instead, the symptoms subside quite quickly, often within a few hours or days. Then the body gets rid of the toxins again. However, the symptoms can be very different depending on the toxin or pathogen causing it. In the case of a food infection, it usually takes a little longer for the first signs to appear, usually one to two days. The so-called incubation period can also be up to a week or longer.

Treatment: what helps with a foodborne illness?

If you feel the signs of a foodborne illness, you should consult a doctor as a precaution. Often times, other people who have consumed the same also show symptoms. Depending on how bad the vomiting or diarrhea is, the body can lose a lot of fluids and salts. Therefore, drink enough - preferably not pure water, but sweetened tea, for example. Special electrolyte solutions from the pharmacy help to normalize the salt balance again. Active ingredients such as loperamide help against diarrhea, but hold back the pathogenic toxin or the germs in the intestine. In the case of a food-borne illness, they are therefore not effective.

Foodborne illnesses can be more severe in babies, toddlers, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. Therefore, a visit to the doctor is strongly recommended here. Even if the symptoms last longer than three days, symptoms such as fever or bloody diarrhea occur, a visit to the doctor is inevitable. There can be other serious illnesses behind such signs. Particular caution also applies to pregnant women.

How to prevent foodborne illness

You can protect yourself against food poisoning or infection by following a few hygiene rules: If you want to prepare the food, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and afterwards. You should also wash your hands after coming into contact with raw meat or fish. Do not cut meat, poultry or fish on the same board as lettuce, cold side dishes or other foods that are no longer heated before consumption. Otherwise germs can also get onto other foods, leading to so-called cross-contamination.

Immediately dispose of defrosted water and packaging of raw meat. Clean the used work surfaces after each use. Change sponges, dish brushes and rags regularly. Store perishable foods in the refrigerator - preferably separately from each other - and use them up quickly. Be particularly careful with food in summer, as the number of food-borne infections increases significantly. Otherwise: boil, fry or cook meat, fish or poultry long enough to kill most of the pathogens. Exception: The poison from staphylococci can even survive 30 minutes of boiling at 100 degrees Celsius. The only thing that helps here is to wash your hands thoroughly, not to keep food warm for too long and to keep sensitive foods away from other dishes.

Other foods that can cause poisoning include rotten mushrooms, excess alcohol, and toxins from fish. Mushrooms don't last long because of their high protein content. With alcohol, it is less spoilage than an excess of beer or wine that leads to alcohol intoxication. The ciguatera, a dangerous fish poisoning, occurs especially in vacation countries like the Caribbean.

Consulting expert:

Dr. Ute Messelhäußer from the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety

Important NOTE:

This article contains general information only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor. Unfortunately, our experts cannot answer individual questions.

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