If you are not careful, your food could become your worst enemy. Food poisoning is more common than you think. Here are some ways to recognize that you are experiencing a food-borne illness and what to do about it.

Common Food-Borne Bacteria

Bacteria love any place that is warm and dark. When it comes to food, it could mean that they grow on cooked foods that are left to sit at room temperature for more than two hours without refrigeration. Some foods already have bacteria on them – for example raw meats.

One of the most common causes of food poisoning is Salmonella. We have all heard of it. We associate it with cross-contamination from raw chicken. It can also come from chicken products like eggs. Not all contaminated food will smell rotten. Some bacteria don’t produce any smell or noticeable change in appearance to the food in question. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Avoid the threat of food poisoning by taking a few precautions with your food.

  • Don’t leave leftover foods on the counter. Refrigerate immediately upon cooling to avoid bacterial growth.
  • Cook raw meats thoroughly to kill any and all bacteria that they may contain.
  • Wash off all fresh fruits and vegetables. Bacteria like E. coli can attach to the skin or rind.
  • Use different utensils and preparation areas for raw and cooked foods.

Symptoms of Food Poisoning

The effects of food poisoning are usually felt within the first few hours after eating a contaminated food. How do you know you are infected? You may begin to experience:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration

These symptoms get worse before they get better. The major concern is dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea. If the symptoms don’t subside (depending on the amount of bacteria in your system), call a doctor.

In cases where a lot of food has been ingested or you are dealing with a strong bug, food poisoning victims may notice additional symptoms:

  • Chest pain – May be sharp and felt when breathing
  • Shock – Cold, clammy skin, shallow breathing and flu-like chills
  • Severe dehydration – Dry mouth, dizziness, low blood pressure, decreased urination
  • Confusion

If this happens, call emergency services right away. Just the severe dehydration can shut down the systems of your body. When this happens you are in mortal danger.

For milder cases of food poisoning, try to identify the food you ate. If it was at a party or cookout, others may have eaten it too and need to be alerted.

As soon as you are able, take in clear liquids. Try cold water or warm chicken or vegetable broth. If you are able to ingest anything and keep it down, your body is beginning to clear the bacteria out of your system.

Food poisoning can be serious business. Know the signs but also how to protect yourself from the outset.

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