It’s spring, which means warmer weather, sunny days, fresh blooms, vacations and outdoor gatherings. After a long winter, many will head to the beach or warmer places for some well deserved rest and relaxation.
One of my favorite parts of traveling is to enjoy the local cuisine in a new area. As I sit here on wonderful Tybee Island, Georgia, on a spring trip myself, I recall a time I had the worst food poisoning on a trip for a friend’s wedding. If you have never had food poisoning, consider yourself very lucky. When food poisoning hits, it is a force to be reckoned with.
Thankfully, I was able to recover with the many tips and tricks I have learned. I’ll share my tips on preventing and recognizing food poisoning, and also the best cures to help you get back to health.
Food poisoning is a food-borne illness that happens when you have eaten contaminated food. The main symptoms include stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea — often all at the same time. Ouch! Hundreds of bacteria can cause food poisoning and they can often be found in food that has touched uncooked food. It can also be present within the food itself. The most common bacteria are E. coli and salmonella.
These symptoms can start as early as a few hours after consuming bad food or can present themselves up to a day later. Certain foods are more susceptible to bacteria, such as eggs, soft cheese, and raw and uncooked meats and vegetables. Often, when I go on vacation I steer clear of raw foods unless the restaurant is well known. Fresh vegetables can be another risk — make sure to wash your fruit and vegetables if you buy these at a local market, grocery store or vegetable stand. Hotter days can also add to the risk as food spoils in warm weather. Think twice about the potato salad that is sitting out on the family reunion picnic table unless it has been stored on ice.
Here are my recommendations for preventing food poisoning:
First and foremost, wash your hands for a good 20 seconds before you touch any food. If your hands are contaminated, it will not matter how clean the food is.
As discussed earlier, wash your fruits and vegetables, but also store them properly when you bring your groceries home.
If you are going to consume raw fish, such as sushi, make sure the restaurant is reputable.
Make sure to store your food properly — if you are bringing leftovers home, store it within a two-hour period, and if it is a particularly hot day, make that an hour.
Thankfully treatment for food poisoning is simple. Most importantly hydrate your body with water, as your body is most likely going to lose a significant amount of fluid from the vomiting and diarrhea. The BRAT diet — bananas, rice, applesauce and toast, is known to be the best for treating vomiting and diarrhea.
Hold off on anti-diarrhea and anti-nausea medication. The toxins in your body need to exit your body and these medications would prevent you from doing so. It is important to keep in mind that if you have a fever above 102, if you have bloody stools, or if your diarrhea or vomiting lasts more than two to three days, it is imperative that you seek medical help. These symptoms could mean that you have a more serious case that cannot be treated at home.
My hope is that you never get food poisoning, but if you do, I hope you are able to recognize the signs and symptoms and treat it appropriately. Enjoy the weather, good food, and rest and relaxation this spring and summer.
Krutika Simon is a pharmacist based in Bloomington with a focus on health and wellness and specialty medications. You can contact her at [email protected].
This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Don’t let food poisoning ruin your vacation. family gatherings