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Food Poisoning Need to Know

By Dr. Valerie Druon, Osler Health

Unfortunately, there has been a recent outbreak of food poisoning at the International French School canteen. Details are currently under investigation, however it has refocused all of our minds upon the cleanliness and food hygiene protocol in food preparation. This is especially pertinent as many of our children eat in school canteens each day.

Food poisoning (or gastroenteritis) occurs when food has been contaminated with germs and their toxins because it has not been correctly handled or cooked. Bacteria can be transmitted to food from poor handling of utensils, contaminated chopping boards, poor sanitation and hand hygiene.

Common sources of food poisoning are:

  • Undercooked and raw meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs

  • Poorly refrigerated food

  • Unpasteurized milk, dairy, juices and ciders

Common symptoms include:

Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tummy cramps and fever can present within a few hours of eating contaminated food. Depending on the type of virus or bacteria, symptoms may present over 24 hours later.

Most cases of food poisoning resolve themselves. Severe cases can lead to rapid dehydration particularly in infant and young children, pregnant women, people with a chronic disease such a diabetes, kidney and liver disease, cardiac conditions or a low immune system.

You need to see a doctor if you have the following:

  • Excessive vomiting – you are unable to keep any fluids down

  • High fever and persisting fever

  • Severe abdominal pain and cramps

  • Blood in vomit or in stools

  • Recurrent diarrhea

  • You are getting more dehydrated – dry mouth, thirsty, dark and little urine, tiredness, lightheadedness and dizziness

The key to recover from food poisoning is rehydration with some electrolyte replacements. Sipping small amounts of fluids regularly will prevent causing a large vomit. Eating plain food like rice crackers, rice or bananas will help to with calorie intake and ease your body into digestion. Avoid dairy products, rich food and high sugary food/drinks. Probiotics have shown to facilitate recovery.

Please seek an appointment with your doctor who can assist.

Dr Valerie Druon is an Australian French-speaking family doctor based at Osler Health Star Vista.

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