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Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating contaminated food. In most cases, the food that causes the illness has been contaminated by bacteria, such as salmonella, or a virus, such as the norovirus.

Symptoms

The symptoms from the most common types of food poisoning generally start within two to six hours of eating the food responsible. These include nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea (may be bloody), fever and chills, headaches and weakness which may worsen with increased dehydration.

Foods that are particularly vulnerable to contamination if they are not handled, stored or cooked properly include:
• Meat/poultry
• 'Ready to eat' food, such as pre-packed sandwiches
• Dairy products, such as eggs and milk

Treatment

Most people will usually recover from the more common types of food poisoning within a couple of days. Drink plenty of fluids (except milk or caffeinated beverages) to replace fluids lost by diarrhoea and vomiting. Children can be given a fluid & electrolyte replacement, available from your pharmacy. These rehydration salts can be brought to use on holiday in the event of sickness. Don't eat solid foods until the diarrhoea has passed.

Prevention

To prevent food poisoning:
• Carefully wash your hands and clean dishes and utensils.
• Make sure all meat is cooked thoroughly and is pipping hot in the middle. You can use a thermometer when cooking or barbequing.
• DO NOT place cooked meat or fish back onto the same plate that held the raw meat, unless it has been thoroughly washed.
• Promptly refrigerate any food you will not be eating right away.
• DO NOT eat meat, poultry, or fish that has been refrigerated uncooked for longer than 1 - 2 days.
• DO NOT use outdated foods, packaged food with a broken seal, or cans that are bulging or have a dent.
• DO NOT use foods that have an unusual odour / spoiled taste.
• DO NOT eat wild mushrooms
• If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system, DO NOT eat soft cheeses.

Call your doctor immediately if symptoms are severe or the ill person is very young, elderly, pregnant or has an underlying medical condition.



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