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Picture of a sick boy.

Summer means cookouts and picnics. Unfortunately, the extreme summer heat also means that food can spoil quickly, which can lead to food poisoning. The following tips from FastMed will help you know what to do if you get food poisoning.

What Is Food Poisoning?

The first step in knowing how to treat food poisoning is to understand the underlying causes. You can become sick with a foodborne illness if you eat food contaminated by bacteria, parasites, or viruses. It is possible for food to become contaminated at any point from processing or production to preparation at home. Even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sets high standards for food safety, there are still approximately 48 million cases of foodborne illness in the U.S. each year, resulting in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

What Are the Signs of Food Poisoning?

The signs and common symptoms of food poisoning typically start within hours or days of eating contaminated food. Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps or pain. Diarrhea is another prominent symptom, and the type of diarrhea may indicate the type of infection. Viral food poisoning is normally characterized by watery diarrhea. Bacterial diarrhea, on the other hand, is more likely to have blood or mucus. Most cases of foodborne illness resolve without medical treatment within a few days.

Who Is Most at Risk for Food Poisoning?

Infants, older adults, and individuals with suppressed immune systems or certain chronic illnesses are more likely to become sick after eating contaminated food since their immune systems are unable to fight off the infectious organism. They also are more likely to become severely dehydrated. Food poisoning can also be particularly dangerous during pregnancy since changes in metabolism and circulation can alter the way the body responds to the infectious organism. In some cases, the illness may even affect the fetus.

Are There Any At-Home Food Poisoning Remedies?

Knowing what to do if you get food poisoning can help prevent dehydration and other serious complications. Over-the-counter food poisoning remedies are primarily aimed at reducing symptoms and preventing dehydration and other complications.

  • Start by being kind to your stomach. It is best to limit yourself to bland, low-fat foods that are easy to digest, such as gelatin, crackers, rice, bananas, toast, and clear broth. It is best to avoid fatty or sugary foods, caffeine, alcohol, dairy, and highly seasoned foods since they can irritate the stomach.
  • Stay hydrated by sucking on ice chips or taking frequent sips of water or a non-caffeinated sports drink. If you notice that your urine is dark or that you are urinating less than normal, you should increase your fluid intake.
  • Get plenty of rest to allow your body time to recover.
  • Drinking ginger tea or chewing chips of crystallized ginger may help ease stomach upset.
  • OTC Probiotics, such as Culturelle GG, have been shown to help ease the symptoms of food poisoning. Additionally, Bismuth (Pepto Bismol), coats and protects the mucosal lining and can help limit diarrhea. 

You should talk to your healthcare provider before taking antidiarrheal medications since they may make certain types of infections worse.

When Should I See a Healthcare Provider for Food Poisoning Remedies?

While most cases of food poisoning can be treated with rest, hydration, and time, you should see a healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:

  • Vomiting so frequent that you cannot keep liquids down
  • Bloody diarrhea or vomit
  • Diarrhea that lasts for more than three days
  • A fever greater than 100.4°F
  • Severe abdominal pain or cramping
  • Little to no urination, severe weakness, excessive thirst, or other signs of dehydration
  • Blurry vision, tingling in the arms, or other neurological symptoms

How Can Food Poisoning Be Prevented?

In addition to knowing how to treat food poisoning, it is also important to practice good food safety:

  • Be sure to wash your hands, work surfaces, and cooking utensils often.
  • Keep raw foods separate from cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure that foods are cooked to a safe temperature.
  • Defrost foods in the refrigerator rather than on the counter at room temperature.
  • Be sure that all perishable foods are refrigerated or placed on ice promptly.
  • In doubt, throw it out. Food that has been left out at room temperature for an hour or more may be unsafe to eat even if it looks and smells fine. It is better to discard it than to take a chance of making yourself or someone else sick.

With more than 100 locations throughout Arizona, North Carolina, and Texas that are open seven days a week, FastMed providers are conveniently available should you need to seek medical attention for food poisoning. We also know that your time is valuable, so we offer online registration and check-in to make your visit as fast as possible.

About FastMed

FastMed Urgent Care owns and operates more than 100 locations across Arizona, North Carolina and Texas, providing a broad range of acute/episodic and preventive healthcare services 365 days per year. FastMed also provides workers’ compensation services at all of its clinics, and family and sports medicine services at select locations. FastMed has successfully treated more than 5.8 million patients since the opening of its first clinic in 2005, and is the largest urgent care operator to be awarded the Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval® for accreditation in healthcare quality and safety in ambulatory healthcare. For more information about locations, services, hours of operation, insurance and prices, visit www.FastMed.com.

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