Food poisoning is the result of getting sick from ingesting tainted food. It’s usually a bacterial or fungal contamination, and may be caused by mishandling. While food poisoning can be extremely unpleasant, or even deadly, it’s not at all uncommon. In fact, most people will experience some form of food poisoning at some point in their lives. You may have already had food poisoning and not known it. Regardless of who you are or how you eat, it’s important to understand food poisoning so you know what you might be up against the next time nausea hits soon after a meal.
How many people get food poisoning?
It’s common to hear fear-mongering talk around food poisoning, especially for people who like to eat potentially high-risk foods. The actual condition isn’t as bad as you might think. Every year, an estimated 48 million people get food poisoning in the United States alone. Of these, less than 130,000 are hospitalized – roughly .2%. Only about 3,000 die of food poisoning every year, accounting for only about .006% of all food poisoning cases. Furthermore, the fatalities are mostly confined to well-known serious pathogens such as salmonella, though there are thousands of potential micro-organic culprits.
What’s the most common way to get food poisoning?
You can easily get food poisoning from food that’s not handled or prepared properly, or food that’s not kept at the appropriate temperatures. However, some types of food are more likely to get contaminated quickly, and also more likely to harbor very dangerous pathogens. These include seafood, poultry, pork, and eggs.
Which food poisoning symptoms should you worry about?
Most cases of food poisoning are unpleasant, but hardly life-threatening. These may cause some indigestion, and possibly nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. When should you be concerned that the food poisoning is a serious health threat? Persistent vomiting and diarrhea may be harmful simply because you’ll get dehydrated. However, if you experience double vision, bloody vomit, trouble swallowing, muscle weakness, or other serious symptoms of food poisoning, then get to the nearest hospital immediately.
Is there a way to guard against food poisoning?
While commercial kitchens have health inspectors and staff specifically trained in safe food handling, chances are that you and your friends are not. Brush up on food handling guidelines before preparing your own meals from scratch. If you attend potluck-style meals, make sure that you only eat food that’s at the proper temperature, and avoid some of the more dangerous food types whenever you’re in doubt.
Can you get food poisoning multiple times in your life?
People are used to threats that can be counteracted by built-up immunity. Unfortunately, food poisoning isn’t really one of them. You can’t build up an immunity to something that’s caused by one of thousands — or possibly tens of thousands – of different types of organisms. No matter how many times you get food poisoning, your chances of an immune response before you feel the symptoms are only slightly increased. That said, people with a weak immune system are, understandably, more likely to get a serious case of food poisoning.
Remember that food poisoning doesn’t always hit right away. You may experience sickness hours or even days after a contaminated meal, depending on how aggressive the organism is and what part of the digestive tract it attacks. Gastrointestinal difficulties following every meal of a similar type may indicate intolerance of specific foods rather than food poisoning. When in doubt, discuss any troublesome symptoms with your doctor to rule out potentially serious problems.