Food Poisoning: Symptoms and What You Should Do

food poisoning
Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / hansiline

Food poisoning occurs when you eat spoiled food or poisonous substances. Here you can find out more about the symptoms and how you can relieve them.

Food poisoning can be caused by bacteria or by toxins. Poisoning caused by bacteria includes, for example, the well-known salmonellosis or listeriosis. These are usually harmless and go away on their own in healthy people. However, there are also bacteria that can cause a more severe form of food poisoning.

Poisoning caused by toxins from fungi, plants or fish can also have serious consequences.

Salmonella and Listeria food poisoning

Symptoms can vary depending on the cause of the food poisoning. However, the classic symptoms usually include gastrointestinal complaints, such as:

  • stomach pain
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting and nausea

Such symptoms occur, for example, in a salmonella-Poisoning up. Even chills and fever can occur. Sometimes the salmonella infection is completely symptom-free. Salmonella can occur in animal foods that have not been sufficiently heated (especially in raw eggs or raw milk).

But the pathogens can also spread particularly well in packaged lettuce in plastic bags. This also applies to the so-called Listeria. These are also bacteria that often cause a harmless form of food poisoning. Healthy people usually survive these completely symptom-free.

Both pathogens are also found in meat, fish or cheese made from raw milk. To avoid infection with them, you should make sure to keep such foods in the refrigerator as continuously as possible. However, once the pathogens are in a food, you can only kill them by heating it to over 70 degrees Celsius for at least ten minutes. Sometimes an infestation of bacteria can be identified by a strange smell or taste. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

Note: In vulnerable groups, such as infants, people with a weakened immune system and the elderly, listeria can cause blood poisoning or meningitis, among other things. In pregnant women, the result can be a miscarriage. People who belong to these groups should therefore immediately seek medical supervision if they suspect listeria poisoning.

Mild Food Poisoning: You Can Do It

If you have mild food poisoning, you should drink plenty of fluids.
If you have mild food poisoning, you should drink plenty of fluids. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / congerdesign)

There are many other bacteria that can also cause food poisoning. These include, for example, the Shigella, which occur particularly in warmer countries. These also solve typical Gastrointestinal complaints the end. If you suffer from such a rather mild form of food poisoning, you should take the following measures:

  • Give yourself and your body rest. Your organism is now busy flushing the absorbed pathogens out of the body and needs a lot of strength and energy for this.
  • In order to get rid of the pathogens, the body usually reacts with vomiting and diarrhea. You also lose a lot of fluid and electrolytes. So drink enough. Sweetened teas or vegetable broths are suitable for this, as they provide you with at least a few additional calories and salts. Also one electrolyte solution from the pharmacy can help.
  • If you can’t eat for a while, that’s perfectly normal. However, you should not completely go without food for several days. For example, white bread, white rice, bananas or zwieback.
  • In general, during and shortly after the days of food poisoning, resort to bland diets and avoid foods that are difficult to digest. You can find out more about this at Stomach-friendly food: Easily digestible food for the stomach
  • If the symptoms have not subsided after three days, you should definitely seek medical advice. Even if symptoms such as fever or bloody diarrhea occur, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Serious food poisoning: botulism

We can also become infected with the botulism pathogen through food. This form of food poisoning is rare but particularly dangerous. The pathogen attacks the nervous system and causes symptoms of paralysis. These are first expressed in the eye muscles. The following symptoms may appear later:

  • speech disorders
  • slowed heartbeat
  • paralyzed skeletal muscles
  • constipation
  • low blood pressure
  • swallowing and vision problems

If you suspect botulism, you should definitely go to a hospital or call an emergency doctor. Left untreated, food poisoning can quickly lead to respiratory arrest.

Botulism pathogens are mainly found in vacuum packaging. So avoid bloated tin cans. These can be an indication of the pathogen. However, according to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), homemade preserves pose the greatest risk. Because consumers usually do not comply with the necessary heating limit of 100 degrees Celsius. As a result, the pathogen has an easy time. The BfR therefore recommends heating the preserved food to 100 degrees Celsius twice within one to two days.

Poisoned by mushrooms, plants or fish

Poisonous mushrooms can cause life-threatening food poisoning.
Poisonous mushrooms can cause life-threatening food poisoning. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / Ralphs_Photos)

Strictly speaking, diseases caused by pathogens are not poisoning, but foodborne infections. In the narrower sense, one only speaks of food poisoning when toxins are actually the cause. You can ingest these, for example, by eating poisonous mushrooms (such as the fly agaric or death cap mushroom). Mold in moldy food can also cause poisoning. The symptoms appear relatively quickly after consumption and range from gastrointestinal complaints to impaired consciousness, tachycardia and shortness of breath.

Fish, mussels or crabs can also contain a poison if they have ingested it through food. The toxin then gets back into the human body and also triggers diarrhea and vomiting.

Finally, eating poisonous plants can also trigger food poisoning. Children are particularly at risk of this.

If you suspect that you have ingested poisons of any kind, you should also make an emergency call immediately.


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