Remember that time you had a stomach virus when the vomiting and diarrhea appeared suddenly, but your food poisoning symptoms disappeared after about four days? It is very possible that it wasn’t a virus at all, but a mild case of food poisoning. Most cases of food poisoning are not life threatening and are no more disturbing than a stomach virus. However, in extreme cases, food poisoning can be life threatening.
Food poisoning can have several causes, most of which have to do either with hygiene, food preparation, or food storage. If the person preparing your food did not wash his hands in bacterial soap and warm water, contamination is possible. If the same cutting board has been in use to prepare several different dishes without washing in between, bacteria can collect and move into your food.
Even if the food preparers had solid hygiene, once they have finished cooking it, it needs to stay at or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit until you get it on your plate. If you’re not going to eat your food right away, refrigerate it so that bacteria cannot use it for a home. If you have refrigerated food, heat it back up above 140 degrees to kill any possible new bacteria.
General Symptoms of Food Poisoning
The common food poisoning symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting and fever. These tend to be mild and are usually not recognized or reported as food poisoning cases. Most of the time, symptoms of food poisoning abate after four or five days.
Symptoms of Botulism
Some of the more troubling food poisoning symptoms are associated with botulism. Dry mouth and blurred vision can mean that you have botulism poisoning. Botulism symptoms usually appear within 18 to 48 hours, and this disease can be fatal. Botulism toxins have a paralyzing effect on the nervous system, which can lead to the inability to swallow and choking. You should seek medical attention as soon as possible in order to receive a serum that will stop nerve damage and hopefully kill the botulism.
Symptoms of Staphylococcal Poisoning
If your food poisoning symptoms include loose stools, cramping and fever about six hours after you’ve consumed dairy products, pastries and/or fish, you may have swallowed the staphylococcal organism.
Symptoms of Rotavirus
If your food poisoning symptoms are marked by vomiting and watery diarrhea, you may have the rotavirus. This strain is most common in infants and children and is recognized by a moderate to severe illness. It is transferred by fecal contamination of food and shared play areas.
Symptoms of Salmonella
Chicken and eggs can be common “carriers” of salmonella, leading to such unpleasant food poisoning symptoms and weakness and lethargy, which can last for up to a week.
WebMD Newsletter, Health Encyclopedia, Mayo Clinic
This post is part of the series: Food Poisoning - Causes, Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment
In this Food Safety article series, you’ll learn the causes and symptoms of food poisoning, as well as tips on preventing and treating food poisoning.