Food poisoning is a gastrointestinal disease that occurs as a result of eating toxic, unclean or bacterially contaminated food. The symptoms of food poisoning usually go away in a few days. But what if not? Read here how to recognize, treat and even prevent food poisoning.
Food poisoning: All information at a glance
What is food poisoning? The term food poisoning refers to illnesses in the gastrointestinal tract that are caused by the consumption of toxic, unclean, or bacterially contaminated food and dishes.
Risk: Food poisoning occurs more frequently in the summer months since the increase in outside temperatures accelerates the multiplication of the corresponding germs. In addition, the cold chains are interrupted more frequently during this time, for example when food is transported in a heated car after shopping in the supermarket. Protein-rich foods such as meat, fish or milk, and egg products are particularly susceptible to bacterial colonization because they provide an excellent breeding ground.
Symptoms: nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea.
What is food poisoning?
There are different forms of food poisoning:
Food poisoning as a result of food intoxication: It is due to toxins formed by bacteria in the food itself. This happens, for example, due to poor hygiene conditions in the kitchen or when preparing food in general. Bacteria that can cause foodborne illness include:
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Clostridium botulinum
- Bacillus cereus and molds
Food poisoning due to a toxin infection: In the so-called toxin infection, pathogens such as enteritis salmonella are ingested through the consumption of food or drinking contaminated beverages and the toxins are formed in the body. The germs multiply in the body and mainly form the toxins there that lead to food poisoning and its symptoms.
In addition to bacterial toxins, there are other triggers for food poisoning:
- Mushroom toxins such as muscarine or amatoxin
- Mold toxins, which include aflatoxin and ergot alkaloids
- Plant toxins such as atropine or scopolamine
- Metals or metal compounds such as arsenic, lead, and zinc
- Toxins from fish and shellfish, such as tetrodotoxin
Food Poisoning Symptoms: How Do I Recognize Food Poisoning?
In most cases, the symptoms become noticeable very quickly after the spoiled food has been eaten. Symptoms often appear after just a few minutes to hours. Typical symptoms of food poisoning include:
- Stomach cramps
- Painful urge to stool or urinate
Due to the large number and variety of triggers, there are additional symptoms that are characteristic of the respective food poisoning. Poisoning by the botulinum toxin from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum in the course of the disease can lead to muscle paralysis, a loss of visual acuity, and speech or swallowing disorders.
Food poisoning examination and diagnosis: what does the doctor do?
In the case of food poisoning, the doctor treating you must first determine which food caused the poisoning. He asks the patient what food and drink they recently consumed. In combination with the symptoms that occur, they provide clear indications of the respective cause. Laboratory diagnostic evidence is usually only provided when there is a concrete suspicion since there are several possible causes.
Food poisoning: treatment and duration
For simple food poisoning, treatment focuses on replacing fluids and electrolytes lost as a result of diarrhea and vomiting. It is therefore important to drink enough drinks containing electrolytes (such as mineral water, possibly with an electrolyte powder from the pharmacy). Drugs are used to stop vomiting and diarrhea only after careful consideration by the doctor since both reactions promote the elimination of toxins from the body. Under certain circumstances, the use of antibiotics may also be necessary in the case of food poisoning, but only in severe cases, such as those that are possible as a result of salmonella or listeria infections. Laboratory diagnosis of the pathogen is a prerequisite for therapy. Extremely strong toxins such as the botulinum toxin make the administration of an antidote necessary to avoid a life-threatening course. In addition, those affected must be treated and monitored in intensive care.