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How To Avoid Food Poisoning This Summer

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Food poisoning is a broad term for illnesses caused by consuming spoiled or infected food or drink. It’s normally caused by bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella or viruses like norovirus. At times the food or drink that is infected may taste normal and hence it is important to practice safe handling, cooking and storing of food and drinks to avoid food poisoning in summers.


What are the symptoms of food poisoning?

The symptoms of food poisoning can vary depending on the underlying cause, but most people report one or more of the following symptoms of food poisoning-

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loose motions
  • Blood in stools
  • Fever (with or without body ache and chills)
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Weakness and dullness
  • Loss of appetite

The symptoms of food poisoning can begin within a few hours or up to a few days after eating the contaminated food. In rare cases, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear.

When to see a doctor?

Most cases of food poisoning can be treated at home by following the treatment prescribed by a doctor. The symptoms may be unpleasant but they generally pass after a week or so and you should be able to manage your symptoms by resting and drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

However, you need to be more vigilant and talk to your doctor immediately in the following cases-:

  • You are over 60 years of age.
  • You are a new mother.
  • You are pregnant.
  • You have a long-term underlying condition like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), heart valve disease, diabetes or kidney disease.
  • You have a weak immune system.
  • Your symptoms don’t start to improve after a few days.
  • If you experience persistent high-grade fever, frequent vomiting or diarrhoea leading to dehydration

Foodborne sickness is the last thing you want to bring in from the outside. It might not be ok to pack your food again and consume it later if it has been sitting out for some time during summer. Hence, in my opinion, never hesitate to throw away any food that has been exposed to the sun for an extended period of time. Place coolers in the shade so they can stay cool and your food will stay cool as well.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Also Read: Is Food Poisoning Contagious: The Definitive Research-Based Guide

How to manage food poisoning at home?

  •   Follow the treatment and diet restrictions prescribed by your doctor.
  • Avoid eating spicy, oily, solid foods. Take bland and easy to digest foods in small frequent portions. (buttermilk, coconut water, curd rice, khichdi with curd, mashed boiled potatoes, water strained from boiled rice, fruits and juices are some options)
  • Avoid alcoholic, caffeinated or sugary drinks.
  • Replace fluids lost by diarrhoea or vomiting with drinking water or oral rehydration therapy.  
  • Don’t take antibiotics or anti-diarrhoea medications without consulting a doctor.  
  • Monitor your vitals – temperature, pulse and blood pressure

In my experience, food poisoning rates rise throughout the summer months because germs grow quicker in warmer temperatures. Eating food that has been left in a warmer place for an extended period may make people sick. Hence, I recommend keeping food refrigerated in the fridge or in an enclosed cooler below 40°F until used.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Preventive measures:

  • Cooking food thoroughly: It is important to prepare food, especially meat or seafood carefully before cooking. You should also make sure they are cooked properly before serving. Keep raw meat, fish and seafood away from other food being served. Undercooked or raw meat can contain harmful germs like campylobacter, salmonella, E. coli or Yersinia. If you’re cooking seafood, poultry or meat, make sure your food is steaming hot in the middle before serving. You can also check that meat is cooked properly by inserting a knife into the thickest part and waiting to see if the juices run clear.
  • Store leftovers properly: Meat, leftover meals and summer staples like salad or fruits can spoil if they are left out for too long. Make sure you refrigerate foods that go bad quickly, like cooked meats and potatoes, within 90 minutes. You should also eat or throw away any refrigerated leftovers within 2 days. Check that your fridge is set to the right temperature at all times to keep food cold enough and keep raw meat stored in the fridge until you need to cook it.
  • Wash raw fruits and vegetables before eating: Salads and other picnic-friendly foods often contain raw fruit and vegetables that can carry dangerous germs. If you are making a salad or picking fruit and vegetables, rinse everything under running water, even if they have a tough, outer rind that you do not plan on eating. You can also clean firm-skinned fruit and vegetables with a vegetable brush.  
  • Wash your hands and keep cooking areas clean: It can be tempting to ignore safety procedures around handling food when you are eating outside, but it’s important to try and keep things hygienic. Many germs can live on countertops and other surfaces, so make sure you wash your utensils, cutting boards and worktops with hot, soapy water whenever you are preparing food. You should also try to wash your hands before and after handling food. If you are eating outside and you don’t have access to hot water and soap, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser to clean your hands, but it is important to make sure that it’s at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid outside food as much as possible: More than home-cooked food, the chances of getting food poisoning from outside cooked food are higher. Avoid foods cooked elsewhere as much as possible. Also, avoid eating from street vendors if they have an unhygienic cooking space, as these are the breeding grounds of germs and other bacteria causing various stomach ailments like diarrhoea and food poisoning. Avoid consuming uncooked food like salads, cut fruits, juices and shakes from outside.

Thus, by keeping these precautionary steps in mind, you can avoid getting food poisoning and can also prevent your loved ones from falling sick.

Also Read: How Long Does Food Poisoning Last? A Complete Guide To Recovery

Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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