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 Fever and Infection

July 2011
Food Poisoning During the Monsoons
Dr V K Bhargava
 
Transition phase from summer to monsoons is ideal for bacterial growth due to high humidity and temperature fluctuations, resulting in an increased incidence of Food Poisoning cases.

So you got driven by those hunger pangs or consumed by that irresistible aroma and devoured those leftovers in the fridge, even though they tasted and smelled a little weird. And then all those rumbling sounds from your already paining stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, spoke volumes about your little brush with those harmful bacteria and toxins in the leftovers that resulted in Food Poisoning.

Symptoms
A mild case of food poisoning will be accompanied with symptoms including abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, shaking of arms and legs (in case of Botulism or mushroom poisoning) and dizziness. More severe symptoms warranting a visit to the doctor include:
  • High fever
  • Difficulty in swallowing, speaking or breathing
  • Blurring of vision, muscle weakness or paralysis, especially in case of food poisoning due to mushrooms or shellfish
  • Severe throwing up or diarrhoea followed by dehydration
  • Persistent,localized abdominal pain
  • Blood in the stools during diarrhoea
Prevention is better than cure
Many cases of food poisoning probably arise from un-cleanliness in your own home and lifestyle.To minimize such possibilities
  • Heat or refrigerate raw food to recommended temperatures. Bacteria can't multiply above 150° or below 40°F.
  • Cook meat until the pink disappears, poultry until there are no red joints and fish until it flakes.
  • Avoid unwashed vegetables, raw protein food like fish, poultry, meat, milk or cracked eggs. Avoid sushi, shellfish, salads made with raw eggs.   
  • Prevent cross contamination by using a separate chopping board when handling raw meat.
  • Don't leave food at room temperature for more than two hours. Thaw meat in the refrigerator.
  • Immediately refrigerate leftovers, even if they are still hot.
  • Avoid swollen puffed cans with mould growth and don’t consume products that have jumped the expiry date.
  • While eating out, ensure that the hot food is piping hot and not lukewarm while the ice creams etc. are completely frozen. Avoid dairy products, dairy sweets, salads, chutneys and sauces lying on the table and shun the roadside vendors. 

Treatment
In general, the symptoms of food poisoning subside in a few days. In cases of severe food poisoning, seek medical attention. Depending on the type and amount of harmful organisms consumed, illness can occur within an hour to five days or so, after eating the contaminated food.
  • Re-hydrate to prevent de-hydration:De-fizzed carbonated drinks also provide relief. Drink lots of water followed by clear liquids like apple juice.
  • Replace electrolyte loss: Vomiting and diarrhoea can result in life threatening loss of important electrolytes—potassium, sodium, and glucose. Thus keep on nipping ORS into your system. 
  • Sip by sip:Drink or eat in small quantities. Trying to gulp down too much at once may trigger more vomiting.
  • Do not take an antacid: An antacidcan lead to further increase in the bacterial count in the absence of gastric acid.
  • Avoid taking anti-diarrhoea medicines and let your body flush out the toxins until the cause of infection is identified. 
  • Take easily digestible bland food after the vomiting and diarrhoea subsides. Avoid high-fibre, spicy, greasy, sugary or dairy foods.
Dr.V.K.Bhargava Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Apollo Health City, Hyderabad.


    
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