Food poisoning is caused by consuming food containing toxins, viruses, bacteria or parasites. Symptoms can start from a few hours to days after consuming contaminated food. Affected people usually have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills and abdominal pain. Most common culprits are staphylococcus toxin, norovirus, E.coli, Salmonella or various parasites. Food gets contaminated by hands or food that were not washed properly, food that was not cooked enough or germs that were spread by contaminated knifes, cutting boards or meat grinders and food processors.
Some food poisonings are self-limited and require supportive measures only. Oral or intravenous hydration, electrolyte replacement and medicines for nausea, vomiting or diarrhea are usually enough. However, in other instances, patients require antibiotics. Propper diet is extremely important. BRAT (banana, rice, applesauce, toast) diet is recommended for diarrhea. Drinking coconut water with small amount of ginger ale and cornstarch improves hydration and slows down diarrhea.
Warning signs of food poisoning or traveler’s diarrhea are extreme fatigue, dizziness, confusion, dark or scant urine, extreme thirst and muscle cramps.
Diagnosis includes detailed history, physical exam, laboratories and occasionally imaging to rule out other causes.