Is Food Poisoning Contagious? Facts and Prevention
Is food poisoning contagious? Yes and no. You’ll get food poisoning from eating food contaminated with a toxin or organism, not from being near a person that has it. Depending on the type of organism that causes it, you can get infected by using contaminated utensils or handling contaminated surfaces.
The best way to prevent catching this pesky illness is to be educated about the foodstuffs that cause it. Being a parent, you must also be able to recognize its signs so you can act fast. Let us get down to the basics!
Usual Symptoms Of Food Poisoning
Certain types of food poisoning are more deadly than the common stomach flu. Its symptoms are persistent and life threatening. Depending on the kind of toxin or organism that had caused food poisoning, a combination of any of the following signs may appear:
- Abdominal pain, painful diarrhea, and vomiting
- Nausea, headache, dizziness or blurred vision
- Always thirsty, dry mouth, unable to urinate due to dehydration
- Fever, weakness and reduced consciousness
- Chills or feeling cold even when the temperature is warm
- Bloody stool that is either loose or watery
- Shock and loss of consciousness in extreme cases
Know The Enemy: How Is Food Poisoning Contagious And Dangerous?
1. Not washing hands and not disinfecting enough
One of the best ways for parents to keep themselves and their kids healthy is to wash hands regularly. Whenever a family member suffers from diarrhea or vomiting, you must also take extra precaution by disinfecting the door knobs, telephone, and utensils that were handled by the sick person.
2. Letting dehydration do further damage
You must act fast as soon as you notice your child or family member exhibit the typical signs of dehydration. Sunken eyes, dry mouth, watery diarrhea that persist at least five times and reduced consciousness are all prelude to dehydration. Things can happen fast and deadly unless you act quickly and see your doctor.
3. Eating the culprit food
Diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, chills and other symptoms of food poisoning are not usually transmissible by person-to-person contact. Family members typically catch the same type of food poisoning because they eat the same set of food that caused it. Foods that are seemingly harmless might harbor toxic organisms that cause food poisoning. It is important that you are informed about how to choose and check the food that you buy and cook.
Foods That Cause Food Poisoning
Food poisoning happens when the organism that is present in the food create toxins that are harmful to the body. Food poisoning is contagious if you are not careful about the food that you bought, prepare and serve to your family. Here are the most common foods that cause this illness:
# Leafy greens and fresh produce
Your garden-fresh crispy salad is not as harmless at it looks. Fresh fruit and leafy greens are usually bathed in toxic pesticides and contaminated with animal manure. You or one of your family members might be allergic to this pesticide, so you have to be careful.
Wash thoroughly and soak fresh fruits and greens in a tub of 3 parts water and 1 part vinegar. If you are planning to store your washed greens in the fridge, dry them thoroughly before storage. Eat your fruit cuts as soon as possible. Do not store them at room temperature.
Tomatoes and sprouts are also favorite bacteria breeding grounds. Better keep them in the fridge at a temperature below 40 F. Use a separate cutting board for chopping fresh produce and veggies. It will be helpful to have different color-coded chopping boards for greens, meat and poultry and dry food (bread).
# Raw eggs
There are lots of recent outbreaks due to Salmonella, and raw, unpasteurized eggs are the usual offender. That tasty cookie dough can have lots of Salmonella, don’t you let your child touch it.
You can double or triple wash your eggs, but it won’t guarantee that the Salmonella is all gone. In some cases, Salmonella can infect the eggs long before their shells form. Scary isn’t it? So if you are feeding kids or if you have a sick family member, better to hard-boil your eggs than to cook them half-done.
# Hot dogs and deli meats
It is unsafe to refreeze thawed raw meat, even if they are preserved. Avoid feeding your child rare and medium-rare cooked meats. Even hot dogs can cause stomach illness if you are not careful.
If you are buying them frozen at the grocery, check the packaging. There must be no ice crystals inside the plastic. The presence of ice crystals usually means that the item has been thawed and refrozen. Weekend outdoor barbecues might sound like a good idea but do not feed your child grilled meat unless it is pre-cooked and thoroughly done.
# Raw fish and shellfish
It’s alright to indulge in tuna sashimi now and then, but they are not for those with weak digestion. There are some types of fish that secrete Ciguatera. This toxin may cause flushing, chills, headaches, systemic and neuropsychiatric symptoms.
There are also some raw fish that have lots of worms. Imagine eating them raw and alive! Add to that the fact that lots fish species has high mercury and heavy metal contents and you have enough reason to avoid eating fish, especially the raw type.
Avoid feeding your child raw oysters as they may contain Norovirus. Likewise, food poisoning due to red tide “algae blooms” can cause the paralytic shellfish poisoning. Eating contaminated shellfish can cause tingling of mouth and lips, numbness, breathing difficulties and paralysis and on extreme cases, even death.
# Canned goods
Botulism is a potentially deadly food poisoning type that can be acquired to due rotten or improperly preserved canned goods. You have to be careful about buying products that are preserved or canned at home.
Fermented foods, cured meats or salted fish can also harbor the organism that causes Botulism. Symptoms usually progress fast and can include vomiting, breathing difficulty, double vision, weakness and paralysis.
Treating Food Poisoning
Food poisoning is more than just frequent diarrhea. It is alarming especially if it is your child that’s sick with it. You can’t just let the symptoms of food poisoning subside on its own. Bring your child to the doctor without haste. Dehydration and systemic effects of food poisoning can also get fatal, so it is best managed in a hospital.
The best way to tell if your child has food poisoning is to have his/her blood and stool tested as soon as the symptoms appear. More and more food poisoning cases are being reported every year in the US and all over the world. The best way to prevent this is to inspect the food that you buy. Check the labels. Throw food if you are unsure whether it is safe. Do not compromise.