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Rod Brouhard, EMT  P

First Aid Phraseology: Food Poisoning

By January 23, 2013

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Food poisoning is not really poisoning at all. It's one of many types of bacterial infections that come from handling or eating contaminated food. Technically, we should call it foodborne illness, but since we all grew up calling it food poisoning, we'll stick with that.

There are several bacteria that regularly cause food poisoning. Campylobacter, E coli, Salmonella, Listeria and Shigella are the most common. Regardless of the actual bacteria, pretty much all food poisoning cases have a few things in common.

Those things are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Food poisoning is not fun. All that vomiting and diarrhea are miserable, and worse, serve a purpose. Vomiting and diarrhea is your body's natural way to rid itself of harmful organisms in the stomach and intestines. Because it's doing a good thing, you shouldn't take anything to discourage vomiting and diarrhea if you suspect the cause is food poisoning.

In severe cases, the vomiting and diarrhea can last long enough to lead to dehydration. That's rare. Most of the time, your body rids itself of the harmful bacteria within 24-48 hours. If symptoms last longer than 48 hours, it's probably time to see a doctor. In really rare cases, intravenous fluids might be needed to avoid dehydration until the food poisoning is over.

Food poisoning or foodborne illness, whatever you call it, it's miserable.

First Aid Phraseology is an occasional look at the common words and phrases used in first aid and emergency medical services. Have a term you'd like to know more about? Email me and I'll touch on it in a future post.

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