Foodborne Illnesses

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Foodborne illnesses occur from eating or drinking contaminated food or beverages, respectively. All foods will naturally contain minute amounts of bacteria, however, improper handling can lead to different foodborne illnesses. There are many possible pathogens and microbes that can enter food and beverages through poor production and preparation sanitation. Infections can come from a wide range of bacteria, viruses, and parasites, thus there are plenty possible foodborne illnesses that can be obtained. Although it can be dangerous to anyone, it is particularly more perilous to infants and young children, older adults, and individual with long-term (chronic) diseases.

Causes of Foodborne Illnesses

Foodborne illnesses are commonly caused by using contaminated ingredients, cross contamination, temperature control, sanitation and personal hygiene. Specifically, the most common causes of foodborne illnesses include:

  • Unable to properly cool food
  • Failure to properly heat or cook food
  • Preparation of food a day or more before served for consumption
  • Storage of food at temperatures where bacteria thrive
  • Failure to reheat cooked foods to temperatures that will eliminate
  • Raw, contaminated ingredients incorporated with foods that receive or do not need further cooking
  • Cross-contamination
  • Poor personal hygiene by an infected worker either at home or at the workplace
  • Poor sanitation of the preparation place

Signs and Symptoms of Foodborne Illnesses

Signs and symptoms of foodborne illnesses will vary depending on the microbe or pathogen that caused the illness. Moreover, these disease-causing agents will also have different incubation periods, which can range from a few hours to one week, thus signs and symptoms may or may not appear immediately after eating the contaminated food. Signs and symptoms usually last one to seven days but may go beyond this period. The following are the common signs and symptoms of foodborne illnesses:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea, that may be bloody*
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Fever
  • Aching of the joints and the back
  • Fatigue
  • In severe cases, dehydration (dark yellow urine, lightheaded or faint, especially on standing, a rapid heartbeat)

*Bloody stools are often a symptom of a severe foodborne illness, thus it is strongly recommended to seek medical assistance immediately.

First Aid Management for Foodborne Illnesses

Majority of all cases of foodborne illnesses can be managed at home by treating its symptoms. For severe symptoms, seek emergency help. However, if one develops foodborne illnesses, the following are generally recommended.

  • Take plenty of rest.
  • Drink copious amounts of fluids, specifically water, fruit juices and sports drinks. Avoid diuretics such as alcohol and coffee.
  • Do not use anti-diarrheal medications. This can impede the elimination of the pathogen from the system.
  • In severe cases, the use of IV fluids are given and usually require hospitalization.
Foodborne Illnesses

Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice and should not be substituted for formal training. The information given should not be used for self-diagnosis. Seek medical attention when necessary. It is important to recognise potential medical emergencies at all times to avoid complications from developing. To learn more about how to manage foodborne illnesses, enrol in First Aid Courses and CPR Courses with Red Cross Training.

Online Sources:

Causes and Prevention of Foodborne Illness

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