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Food poisoning

Food poisoning: Introduction

Food poisoning is a general term for a wide variety of diseases that are caused by ingesting food or beverages that are contaminated with harmful microorganisms, such as certain bacteria, viruses or parasites. Food poisoning is also known as food borne illness.

The most common form of food poisoning is salmonellosis, a type of food poisoning caused by salmonella bacteria. Other common types of food poisoning include botulism, shigellosis, mushroom poisoning, cryptosporidiosis food poisoning (cryptosporidium enteritis), campylobacter food poisoning (campylobacteriosis), Escherichia coli food poisoning, and staphylococcus food poisoning (staphyloenterotoxicosis).

Many types of food poisoning are spread from the feces of people or animals through food or beverages that have been contaminated with feces that contain infectious bacteria, viruses or parasites. Common sources of foods contaminated with infectious microorganisms include undercooked eggs, chicken and poultry or any undercooked or raw food that comes from animals, such as seafood, meat, milk and dairy products. Other foods that can cause food poisoning include toxic mushrooms, contaminated home-canned food, contaminated water, raw vegetables and fruits, unpasteurized apple cider, and contaminated honey.

Any food can become contaminated with infectious microorganisms that cause food poisoning if it is handled by an infected person with unwashed hands or if it comes in contact with contaminated food.

Food poisoning typically results in symptoms such as irritation and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. A wide variety of other symptoms can occur depending on the specific type of food poisoning. Food poisoning can also result in serious complications. For more details about symptoms and complications, see symptoms of food poisoning.

Food poisoning can occur in any age group or population. People most at risk for serious complications due to food poisoning include older adults, pregnant women, infants, children, and people who have compromised immune systems. This group includes people with diseases that affect the normal functioning of the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, cancer, and kidney disease. People at risk also include those who take medications that affect the immune system, such as chemotherapy.

Diagnosing food poisoning and its root cause begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination.

A stool sample is generally taken and tested in the laboratory to determine if infectious bacteria, viruses or parasites are present. This is A blood test may also be done to check if bacteria have spread to the blood.

Diagnosis may also include a complete blood count, which can help to determine if an infectious process, such as food poisoning, is present. A chemistry panel is a blood test that can evaluate if the symptoms of food poisoning have lead to the complication of dehydration. An urinanalysis can also help to determine dehydration.

Symptoms of food poisoning can be similar to symptoms of other diseases. Because of this and other reasons, a diagnosis of food poisoning can be delayed or missed. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of food poisoning.

Food poisoning can often be prevented by taking simple hygiene and food preparation precautions. Treatment of food poisoning involves ensuring good hydration until symptoms pass. Medications may also be prescribed. For more information on prevention and treatment, refer to treatment of food poisoning. ...more »

Food poisoning: Food-borne illnesses are very common and are most commonly due to bacteria or other microbes in food. Food poisoning differs from a food intolerance or food allergy which occurs when a person cannot tolerate a food, but it is not poisonous to others. Typically, food poisoning causes gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, but there are exceptions such as botulism which often has nerve symptoms rather than digestive symptoms. Several types of food poisoning also resemble cold or flu in their early stages. ...more »

Food poisoning: Symptoms

Symptoms of food poisoning vary depending on the specific type of food poisoning, the amount of infectious microorganisms ingested, age, medical history and other factors.

Typical symptoms of food poisoning include multiple bouts of diarrhea, nausea and vomiting with abdominal pain or abdominal cramps. Other symptoms of food poisoning can include ...more symptoms »

Food poisoning: Treatments

The first step in treating food poisoning is prevention. This includes not eating wild or unknown mushrooms, not giving honey to infants, and not drinking untreated or non-potable water.

Preventing food poisoning also includes throwing out expired food or perishable food that has been sitting at room temperature for two hours or longer. It is also important to never eat raw or undercooked ...more treatments »

Food poisoning: Misdiagnosis

Making a diagnosis of food poisoning can be delayed or missed because in some cases, food poisoning may not be severe enough for a generally healthy adult to seek medical care. In addition, symptoms of Food poisoning are similar to symptoms of a wide variety of diseases and disorders. These include irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Food poisoning

Treatments for Food poisoning

  • Treatment of food poisoning is dependant on the severity of symptoms, the age of the patient, coomorbidities (such as diabetes etc) and the likely causative organism. Treatment is usually symptomatic as the illness is usually self-limiting within 24-48 hours. Treatments include:
    • Avoidance of dehydration and rehydration
      • Oral therapy - if vomiting and dehydration are not severe. Small amounts and often, ideally with and balanced electrolyte solutions, but other fluids can be used. Avoid high sugar drinks as this may worsen diarrhoea and dehydration.
      • Nasogastric therapy - in a hospital setting may be used to avoid intravenous therapy.
      • Intravenous therapy - where vomiting and/or dehydration are severe, or there is an altered level of consciousness or other coomorbidities.
  • more treatments...»

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Food poisoning:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Food poisoning?

Food poisoning: Related Patient Stories

Food poisoning: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Food poisoning.

Alternative Treatments for Food poisoning

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Food poisoning may include:

Types of Food poisoning

Food poisoning: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Food poisoning:

Causes of Food poisoning

Read more about causes of Food poisoning.

More information about causes of Food poisoning:

Disease Topics Related To Food poisoning

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Food poisoning:

Food poisoning: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Food poisoning

Undiagnosed acute appendicitis deadly in children: It is a sad reality that a child with acute appendicitis has a high likelihood of misdiagnosis. This misdiagnosis is a well-known cause more »

Chronic digestive conditions often misdiagnosed: When diagnosing chronic symptoms of the digestive tract, there are a variety of conditions that may be misdiagnosed. The best known, irritable bowel syndrome, more »

Intestinal bacteria disorder may be hidden cause: One of the lesser known causes of diarrhea is an imbalance of bacterial in the gut, sometimes called intestinal imbalance. The digestive more »

Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely to cause some level of diarrhea in patients. The reason is that antibiotics kill off not only "bad" bacteria, but can more »

Food poisoning may actually be an infectious disease: Many people who come down with "stomach symptoms" like diarrhea assume that it's " more »

Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain, more »

Celiac disease often fails to be diagnosed cause of chronic digestive symptoms: One of the most common chronic digestive conditions is celiac disease, a malabsorption disorder with more »

Chronic digestive diseases hard to diagnose: There is an inherent difficulty in diagnosing the various types of chronic digestive diseases. Some of the better known possibilities are more »

Food poisoning: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Food poisoning

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Food poisoning:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Food poisoning, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Food poisoning: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Latest Treatments for Food poisoning

Evidence Based Medicine Research for Food poisoning

Medical research articles related to Food poisoning include:

Click here to find more evidence-based articles on the TRIP Database

Food poisoning: Animations

Prognosis for Food poisoning

Research about Food poisoning

Visit our research pages for current research about Food poisoning treatments.

Clinical Trials for Food poisoning

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Food poisoning include:

Prevention of Food poisoning

Prevention information for Food poisoning has been compiled from various data sources and may be inaccurate or incomplete. None of these methods guarantee prevention of Food poisoning.

  • Wash hands - when preparing food, touching raw food, changing diapers, etc.
  • Cook beef properly
  • Cook chicken properly
  • Cook eggs properly
  • Wash fruits and vegetables
  • more preventions...»

Statistics for Food poisoning

Food poisoning: Broader Related Topics

Food poisoning Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Food poisoning, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Food poisoning

Bacteria and Foodborne Illness: NIDDK (Excerpt)

Foodborne illness results from eating food contaminated with bacteria (or their toxins) or other pathogens such as parasites or viruses. The illnesses range from upset stomach to more serious symptoms, including diarrhea, fever, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and dehydration. Although most foodborne infections are undiagnosed and unreported, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every year about 76 million people in the United States become ill from pathogens in food. Of these, up to 5,000 die. (Source: excerpt from Bacteria and Foodborne Illness: NIDDK)

Foodborne Infections General: DBMD (Excerpt)

Foodborne disease is caused by consuming contaminated foods or beverages.  Many different disease-causing microbes, or pathogens, can contaminate foods, so there are many different foodborne infections.  In addition, poisonous chemicals, or other harmful substances can cause foodborne diseases if they are present in food.  (Source: excerpt from Foodborne Infections General: DBMD)

Foodborne Diseases, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID (Excerpt)

Infectious diseases spread through food - so-called foodborne illnesses - are a common, distressing, and sometimes life-threatening problem for millions of people in the United States and around the world. Scientists estimate that the 76 million foodborne illnesses that occur each year in the United States account for 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. Persons infected with foodborne organisms may have no symptoms or can develop symptoms ranging from mild intestinal discomfort to severe dehydration, bloody diarrhea, and death. (Source: excerpt from Foodborne Diseases, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID)

Definitions of Food poisoning:

Illness caused by poisonous or contaminated food - (Source - WordNet 2.1)


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