One might wonder what is the connection between food poisoning and flu? The simple reason for the connection is that often the symptoms are similar if not identical.
Bacteria in Food
Not all bacteria in food are harmful, some are bad while some others are good for the gut and essential to produce certain foods (for instance, bacteria species help in the production of delicious and tasty yogurts). Foods such as meat, poultry and egg products are not sterile when we purchase them, and we need to ensure that they are properly cooked, stored and handled to prevent any foodborne illnesses.
While flu and food poisoning are two entirely different infections, their symptoms are similar. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever are common symptoms of food poisoning. Due to the similarities between the two infections, people often assume food poisoning to be the root cause of the problem and wait for a while before turning up at the doctor’s clinic. Symptoms can occur anytime between 4 hours to one week after consuming the food and can last anywhere between 24 hours and one week which is another cause for the symptoms of food poisoning to go unnoticed.
Foodborne illness attacks certain groups of people vigorously. Pregnant women, elderly people, infants, children and individuals with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease or transplant patients are at an increased risk. Such people need immediate medical attention, otherwise the effects of foodborne illness can also be fatal.
Reasons for Food Poisoning
If you have any doubts that you have been affected by food poisoning, it is better to seek medical attention, if required. If symptoms persist for more than 24 hours or if you are among the individuals in the high-risk category, it is advisable to seek medical attention immediately.
If you have guessed the root cause of the infection, take precautionary measures. If the food you ate at home is the culprit, label it as harmful so that rest of your family members don’t consume it. If the food you ate in a restaurant can be attributed to the infection, keep the health department informed. But, if you feel that the poisoning has occurred over a period of time, you cannot do anything about it and you can only take precautionary food preparation measures to avoid it in the future.
Techniques to Avoid Foodborne Illness
The four keywords clean, separate, cook and chill must help you prevent food poisoning. Before and during food preparation ensure to keep your hands and the cooking surface hygienic by washing them frequently and correctly. Always keep raw meat set aside from other food items while preparing meals. Use a food thermometer whenever you cook raw meat, poultry, egg products and fish cooking them to the right temperature (and maintaining it at 140oF after cooking) to kill any harmful bacteria that might be present. Techniques to handle a food thermometer are mentioned at www.firsteatright.com. Also make sure that you refrigerate any perishable food within two hours of cooking and store it properly to curb the presence of any harmful bacteria, thereby assuring you of a healthy and safe body.
Dietitian Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.