Cramps, Diarrhea And Vomiting, Oh, My. When You Should Seek Medical Attention For Food Poisoning

Fast food and packaged meals have at least two things in common. They both make mealtime more convenient, and they both have been linked to widespread food poisoning cases. In 2015, alone, there have been numerous serious food poisoning outbreaks, including at: 

  • Chipotle. At least 45 people were felled by an E. coli strain after eating at this fast-food chain, with a third of those having to be hospitalized. As of December 2015, the actual contaminated food product had not yet been identified. 
  • Costco. This big box retailer's chicken salad was linked to another E. coli outbreak. At least 19 people were reportedly sickened by the chicken salad, with a quarter of them having to be hospitalized. Sadly, this strain has caused severe complications in some patients, including kidney failure. 
  • Fig & Olive. At least 160 people in 5 different states were sickened by salmonella bacteria after eating at this restaurant chain. Though the actual food containing the bacteria had not been discovered as of December 2015, the restaurant did remove dishes containing truffle oil as a precaution. 

Food Poisoning or Stomach Bug?

The symptoms for both food poisoning and a mild stomach illness are often the same. These include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and fever. Though you may be tempted to brush off your symptoms at first, it's important to seek immediate medical attention if the following should occur:

  • Constant vomiting, especially if you cannot keep any liquids down for four to five hours.  
  • Persistent diarrhea, especially if it is bloody or contains pus or lasts longer than 72 hours
  • No urination for 12 hours.  
  • Severe abdominal cramps. 
  • High fever

It is especially important to seek medical attention if you are elderly or have a weakened immune system. 

Make a Record of Your Meals

If you believe that your symptoms are related to food poisoning, you should make a record of all the places you ate and foods you recently consumed. You should also note whether you may have consumed any untreated water from, for instance, a stream, or if you have been out of the country. In most cases, food poisoning symptoms occur about four to six hours after eating tainted food. However, it can take up to ten days for people infected with certain strains of E. coli to develop such symptoms as diarrhea and cramping.

You should also report your situation to your local health department so that they can do a thorough investigation. This will help them to determine whether or not your case is linked to a larger outbreak. Your medical care provider may also decide to perform tests so that they can learn exactly what may be causing your symptoms. 

Serious Complications of Food Poisoning

Food poisoning should not be taken lightly. Although most people who eat tainted food recover quickly, others may end up with serious complications. And, sadly, food poisoning can even be deadly. The following are a few of the problems that can occur after a food poisoning bout:

  • Reactive arthritis. A recent study of a Salmonella outbreak discovered that one out of five patients developed reactive arthritis, which causes painful joint inflammation. 
  • Hemolytic uremic syndrome. E. coli has been known to cause this syndrome in patients, which can result in kidney failure and other severe complications, including stroke, coma and heart problems. 
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome. This is a debilitating disease that can result in muscle weakness and even in paralysis. 

Unfortunately, even with strict regulations, food poisoning cases continue to occur, and there is often very little you can do to completely eliminate your risk of getting ill from eating contaminated food. So it's important to carefully monitor yourself if you do come down with a stomach bug and to seek medical attention at a clinic like Summit View Clinic if your symptoms suddenly worsen or persist for several days.