Food poisoning, also called food-borne illness, is a broad term that includes a range of infections as a consequence of eating contaminated, spoiled, or toxic food. Unfortunately it’s a very common problem, and according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) one in six Americans will contract some form of food poisoning every year.
The symptoms and their severity may vary widely depending on the agent that is causing the problem (whether bacteria, virus, or parasite), and the immune system’s capacity to fight the infection.
However, it is important to know that despite the wide range of causes, the patient presents the following symptoms in most cases of food poisoning:
This is a symptom may start as early as 1 hour after eating the poisoned food. It also indicates stomach disease and it helps to eject the poisoned food out of the body.
During vomiting, different involuntary spasmodic movements occur in the gastrointestinal tract, which induces the output of the stomach contents. If the patient has uncontrolled vomiting and the inability to keep liquids down, it is very important to consult a doctor.
This symptom is also very common and it is not exclusive of food poisoning; however, some characteristics of the feces can indicate the possible causal agent (bacteria, virus or parasite).
For example, the presence of blood in the feces may indicate an infection by Shigella, Salmonella, or Entamoeba histolytica, while the presence of mucus in the feces may indicate the intolerance to certain kind of food.
Likewise, some viruses (like Rotavirus), usually cause explosive, fetid or watery diarrhea.
Many experts recommend performing a stool test when food poisoning is suspected (especially if the patient has more than 3 days with diarrhea) to determine the specific cause of the disease and to be able to treat it properly.
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