The effects of food poisoning are nausea, vomiting, fever, and muscle aches, but the severity of the effects depends on the type of contaminant. The elderly, pregnant women, infants, and individuals who are already ill are most at risk. Food poisoning occurs when foods containing parasites, viruses, or bacteria are consumed. It is possible to feel the effects of food poisoning up to 30 minutes after eating.
Symptoms for food poisoning vary according to the contaminant and the amount eaten. The common side effects of food poisoning are headaches, abdominal cramping, diarrhea and fever. Poisoning from the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria may cause meningitis in some people. Those with food poisoning caused by a parasite typically have watery diarrhea that lasts for a few days.
Side effects of food poisoning from toxic agents can be extremely distressing to the body. Mushroom toxins produce a nerve toxin which causes hallucinations, sweating and coma. Ciguatera poisoning comes from eating exotic fish. It can make the areas of the body become numb and cause rapid heartbeat. Unwashed fruits and vegetables with pesticides are known to make people experience blurred vision and an increase in saliva production.
High-risk groups for food poisoning are the elderly, pregnant women, infants and those with chronic diseases. In older adults, the immune system might not respond fast enough to infectious organisms. Changes in metabolism and increased circulation during pregnancy can cause both the baby and mother to become ill. Those receiving radiation therapy or chemotherapy for cancer are also at great risk.
Causes of food poisoning can be separated into categories of toxic agents and infectious agents. Toxic agents include exotic foods such as barracuda, poisonous mushrooms, and vegetables or fruits containing pesticides. The infectious agents are viruses, parasites, and bacteria. Food usually becomes contaminated from improper preparation and poor sanitation. Food contamination can also stem from packaged foods being stored at the wrong temperatures.
Medical treatment for food poisoning is available for those experiencing serious side effects from food poisoning. The primary treatment is replacement of fluids, since vomiting and diarrhea cause rapid fluid loss. People with food poisoning caused by a toxic agent may need an antidote, such as activated charcoal. These poisonings are quite serious and can require intensive care at a hospital.
After food poisoning occurs, experts suggest continuing drinking extra fluids until the diarrhea completely stops. It is not advisable to participate in strenuous activity for two days, so that the body has time to recover. If any of the symptoms change or worsen, a physician should be contacted immediately.