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Recognizing and Treating Food Poisoning

There are many kinds of food poisoning, also referred to as foodborne illnesses. They have similar symptoms, but they don't all require the same treatment. To avoid getting sick, you need to know how to recognize the symptoms and how to prevent them.

This section will discuss the symptoms of food poisoning and other foodborne illnesses. We'll also describe the various treatments for cases of food poisoning. Finally, this page explains what to do if you become sick after eating at a restaurant, bar, or grocery store.

Types of Food Poisoning

There are four main types of food poisoning. There are others as well, but they are less common than those described here.

Common types of food poisoning include:

  • E. coli: Most strains of E. coli are harmless. The one that causes the most problems is E. coli O157-H7. E. coli comes from bacteria from the digestive tracts of animals. People contract E. coli from eating contaminated food or drinking tainted water. Some of the foods to avoid are fresh fruit and vegetables that weren't washed, as well as undercooked ground beef.
  • Salmonella: - Like E. coli, salmonella comes from the digestive tract of animals and humans. Typically, food or water gets contaminated by animal feces. Some foods containing salmonella include fresh fruits and vegetables, unpasteurized milk and juice, and raw or undercooked eggs, meat, and poultry.
  • Listeria: - Most people get listeria from eating raw meat or fresh fruit and vegetables. One of the tricky things about Listeria is that it can survive in and on food even when you cook or freeze it.
  • Norovirus - Unlike the other three types of food poisoning, bacteria don't cause norovirus. It's a virus that people contract and pass on to each other, which is why so many people spread foodborne illnesses through food handling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), foods that carry Norovirus include shellfish, leafy greens, fruits, and any raw/undercooked meats.

The symptoms of these illnesses are very similar.

Symptoms of Foodborne Illnesses

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of food poisoning can allow you to determine if you ate anything suspicious. Perhaps your dinner seemed a bit off, or maybe the local convenience store only sold unpasteurized milk. These are the sorts of things that can make you and your loved ones sick.

If you notice any symptoms that persist for more than 24 hours, seek medical treatment immediately. You may be the victim of food contamination. If so, you may have a valid food poisoning claim against the person or business you bought the food from.

  • E. Coli: The symptoms of E. coli are similar to most other foodborne illnesses. Some things to expect from E. coli bacteria are severe diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. In extreme cases, you may experience kidney failure, stroke, coma, and even death.
  • Salmonella: If you have salmonella, you'll experience the same symptoms as you would with E. coli. However, in extreme cases, salmonella can cause arterial infections, arthritis, and endocarditis.
  • Listeria: Like E. coli victims, people with listeria can expect to feel nauseated. They will also have vomiting, severe diarrhea, fever, and headaches. One of the unique symptoms of listeria is muscle and body stiffness. In extreme cases, listeria can cause stillbirths and miscarriages in pregnant women.
  • Norovirus: Most people who say they have a stomach flu or "bug" have norovirus. This is very contagious. The symptoms are the same as if you did have the flu. The difference between norovirus and the ordinary flu is that the symptoms are more severe.

There are other types of food poisoning that aren't as common as those listed above. These include:

  • Botulism
  • Campylobacter
  • Severe food allergy

When you first meet with your personal injury lawyer, tell them which type of illness you had. You'll need to give them a copy of your medical records so they can determine exactly what injuries you suffered.

Seek Medical Attention if Your Symptoms Last More Than a Few Hours

There's no need to run to the emergency room every time you get a stomach ache. You only need immediate medical attention if your severe symptoms continue for a day or two. You should also go to the emergency room or see a doctor if you learn that you ate contaminated food items.

Imagine that you went to dinner at a local restaurant. You didn't feel well through the night. You learned on the news the next day that the restaurant had been temporarily closed due to suspected food poisoning. When you put two and two together, you realize that you may have food poisoning.

When May a Hospital Visit Be Unnecessary?

You can't go to the hospital every time you don't feel well. Not only will you spend thousands of dollars on medical bills, but the healthcare professionals at the local hospital might begin to wonder if you understand what an emergency room is meant for.

There are a few ways to rule out food poisoning. Some of these include:

  • Typically, you will not feel the effects of food poisoning immediately after eating contaminated food
  • Ask yourself if you felt sick before eating anything that you believe may have been tainted or spoiled
  • Are your symptoms persistent for more than a few hours?
  • Do other people in your family or social circle have a similar illness unrelated to food?

You want to use common sense. The general rule is that most foods will take four to six hours to make you sick.

If your symptoms appear before that, the odds of your having food poisoning are low. However, if your symptoms persist, you should visit the local ER. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Food Poisoning Can Make You Dehydrated

Food poisoning cases that cause diarrhea or vomiting can make you dehydrated. When you lose fluids and salts (electrolytes), you need to replenish them. Many people assume that popular sports drinks like Gatorade can help rehydrate them, but this isn't the case. Drink an oral rehydration solution such as Ceralyte, Pedialyte, or Oralyte.

There are also over-the-counter aids that can help with stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea. For example, many people take preparations of Bismuth subsalicylate (e.g., Pepto-Bismol) to lessen the duration and severity of diarrhea.

Antidiarrheal medications may also provide symptomatic relief if your diarrhea and cramps persist. Avoid these medications if you have a high fever or bloody stool, as they can make your illness worse.

When To Contact a Health Care Provider

There are times when you should consult your healthcare provider. If you exhibit any of the following symptoms, you may have a severe case of food poisoning:

  • High fever (temperature over 101.5 F, measured orally)
  • Blood in the stools
  • Prolonged vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down
  • Dehydration
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Dizziness when standing up
  • Diarrhea that lasts more than three days

If you have these symptoms, have a friend or family member take you to the ER. It's unsafe to drive if you feel ill.

Supplements and Homeopathic Remedies for Food Poisoning Symptoms

If you develop a minor case of food poisoning, there are some home remedies you can try. For example, you can go to a health food store or pharmacy and buy supplements. Some of the supplements recommended by homeopaths include:

  • Arsenic Album
  • Veratrum Album
  • Aloe
  • Colocynthis

It's still a good idea to see your doctor or visit the emergency room if you remain sick after 12-24 hours. You should also consult your doctor before taking any of the above supplements.

What To Eat While Food Poisoning Runs Its Course: The BRAT Diet

Not everybody who develops food poisoning goes to the hospital. Often, people don't even realize that they have a foodborne illness. They address their symptoms the same way they'd handle a stomach bug.

While you wait for your symptoms to resolve, there are certain foods you can eat that will make you feel a little better. These foods, when eaten together, make up the BRAT Diet.

This diet consists of the following foods:

  • Bananas
  • Rice
  • Applesauce
  • Toast

These foods are all easy to digest. While on the BRAT diet, you'll give your digestive system a chance to return to normal. You can always supplement these four foods with ginger ale, peppermint, and probiotics such as yogurt. If your symptoms persist despite eating this diet, visit your doctor or local urgent care center.

Do Antibiotics Help?

Most doctors will not prescribe antibiotics for food poisoning patients. Most foodborne illnesses originate from viruses, and antibiotics don't help with viruses. Your symptoms will improve in two or three days without antibiotic therapy.

Using an antibiotic to treat a viral infection could cause more harm than good. Taking an antibiotic, even with a mild bacterial infection, is often unnecessary. Overuse of antibiotics is the principal reason many bacteria are becoming resistant. The antibiotic no longer kills resistant bacteria.

Other treatments can help, and washing your hands helps prevent the spread of infection.  

Who Will Pay Your Medical Bills and Other Expenses?

You may be wondering whether you'll be responsible for medical bills related to food poisoning. Initially, you must submit a claim to your primary health insurance carrier. However, if you prevail in your personal injury case, your attorney will demand that the defendant pay your medical bills.

In most product liability law cases, plaintiffs can recover some or all of the following types of damages:

  • Medical expenses
  • Future medical bills
  • Emotional distress
  • Lost wages
  • Lost future income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages

Remember that it's rare for a judge to award you punitive damages. These are limited to cases where the courts want to punish the defendant.

Contact a Product Liability Lawyer if You Develop Food Poisoning From a Restaurant or Grocery Store​

If you suffer a severe case of food poisoning, you may have a legal claim. It all depends on the facts of your case. For example, if you know which foods made you sick, you can sue the company that prepared or served it.

If you became sick from the food you bought at the grocery store, your personal injury attorney could sue several parties, including:

  • The food product's manufacturer
  • The distributor
  • The retailer
  • Farmer (originator)

Your attorney will handle your food poisoning lawsuit like any other product liability claim. Most product liability cases require that you prove negligence. However, in some product liability lawsuits, your attorney can argue that strict product liability applies. If this is the case, the only two things you'll need to prove are that you suffered food poisoning and that the defendant was responsible for your illness.

If you believe you suffered a severe illness due to food contamination, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer near you.

Food Poisoning Resources and Links

Below, you will find information on the diagnosis and treatment of food poisoning and tips on preventing food poisoning.

Food Poisoning Prevention Links

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