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Dealing with Food Poisoning While on Holiday

By Holiday Claims Expert @1holidayclaims

If you’re going on holiday this year, the last thing you want is to have your trip ruined by food poisoning. Food poisoning is a sometimes serious illness resulting from the consumption of water or food contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals. Below are a few tips on how to recognize food poisoning and how to deal with it if you have the bad luck to experience food poisoning symptoms while traveling.

Foods Most Often Associated with Food Poisoning

Some foods are more likely than others to result in food poisoning. Potential culprits include raw vegetables and fruits, poultry, eggs, meats, unpasteurised milk, cheese, spices and nuts. Usually, food poisoning is contracted through the consumption of foods that haven’t been properly cleaned, processed or stored – or all of the above.

Common Food Poisoning Symptoms

Signs of food poisoning often include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Less often, more serious symptoms of food poisoning can include fevers, dehydration, weakness, headaches, blurred vision, numbness or tingling in extremities and diarrhea lasting three days or more. When things get really serious, the result can be liver damage, kidney failure, seizures and even death.

How Long Does Food Poisoning Take?

Since there are many different types of food poisoning, it’s not surprising that the time it takes for symptoms to pop up after eating or drinking contaminated food or water can vary a lot. After you consume something contaminated, it can be anywhere from one hour to 10 days for the first symptoms to appear.

Causes of Food Poisoning

Viruses are the most common cause of food poisoning around the world, with food poisoning bacteria being a distant second. Just over 30 bacterial and viral strains are responsible for the vast majority of food poisoning illnesses travelers experience every year.

Common pathogens causing food poisoning include Salmonella, Norovirus and Staphylococcus aureus. While viruses cause the largest number of food poisoning incidents, the bacterial food poisoning infections are far more serious and much more likely to result in hospitalisation or death.

Food Poisoning Toxins and Chemicals

Toxins are another possible – if somewhat less likely – cause of food poisoning. Some of these toxins are byproducts produced by bacteria in food, while other toxins can be produced by animals or plants that are later consumed. There are a surprising number of animals and plants that can be – under certain circumstances – poisonous if consumed.

For instance, a poorly prepared Fugu fish in Japan can be lethal. Toxic mushrooms are also a serious threat, while ricin, belladonna and hemlock are less common. While food and water can get contaminated by toxins, outbreaks are usually extremely small – sometimes limited to one or two individuals.

Food poisoning can also be caused by toxic chemicals. There are literally tens of thousands of chemicals in use around the world, and many of them have not been thoroughly studied for their impact on human health. One toxin that has been well studied over the years is mercury, which is often found in certain seafood and in some drinking water. Other possible chemical contaminants include lead, plastic byproducts and pesticides.

How Is Food Poisoning Diagnosed?

Any diagnosis of food poisoning usually starts with looking at the patient’s most recent food and water consumption history, as well as their travel history and questions about family or friends with identical symptoms. A doctor will look for indications of abdominal pain and dehydration. For mild cases of food poisoning, it may not be necessary to perform further tests.

In more serious cases, blood and stool tests might be necessary to look for certain toxins or parasites and to rule out other potential problems. Immunological tests might also be conducted for more unusual toxins. In rare cases, a biopsy may be necessary to confirm the suspected cause of the food poisoning.

Recommended Treatments for Food Poisoning

The principal treatment for food poisoning revolves around fluid consumption – and lots of it. This is to compensate for the loss of bodily fluids caused by all the vomiting and diarrhea. Fluid intake following food poisoning is particularly important for the elderly and the young, as well as those whose health is already compromised by other medical issues.

Patients are sometimes advised to take medications to minimise nausea and vomiting, but the use of any medication for treating diarrhea is not recommended since it can frequently make symptoms worse or cause other problems. But before using any medications you should check with your doctor.

It’s also usually not recommended that you use antibiotics for food poisoning caused by either viruses or bacteria – although there are certain circumstances when antibiotics can be used. For an example, extremely serious bacteriological infections will, of course, be treated with antibiotics, as will pregnant women infected with listeriosis. But these instances are rare.

Possible Cures and Home Remedies

There is no magic food poisoning cure, but there are a few things you can do about mild to moderate food poisoning resulting from contaminated water or food. The principal goal in any of these approaches is to avoid dehydration. In addition to water, electrolyte solutions like Gatorade can be used to restock the body with some of the minerals it’s been losing.

Mild to moderate food poisoning will usually resolve itself in a matter of hours or a few days. Until then, it’s simply a matter of resting, consuming liquids and maintaining yourself until it goes away. Obviously, more serious cases of food poisoning should always be brought to the attention of a doctor.

But the simple fact is the best cure for food poisoning is to not get it in the first place. When you’re on holiday, this can best be accomplished by avoiding seedy looking restaurants, questionable food vending carts and – in certain locations – tap water. Practicing a little caution while you’re traveling can prevent a lot of misery later.

Did You Know?

Food poisoning on holiday is the biggest reason for claiming compensation. If this has happened to you in the last 2.5 years, you could claim up to £40,000 – get in touch today for a free consultation: 0330 133 0421 or fill out our claims form.

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