Contrary to what many people believe, food poisoning doesn’t immediately send you rushing to the bathroom after consuming a bite of contaminated food. Breaking out in a sweat can be an early warning sign – and an indication that your situation is about to get a lot worse. If your fever and sweating make you think that you have food poisoning, try to remember if you ate something suspicious in the last 48 hours or so.
According to the Mayo Clinic, flatulence and stomach cramps are an indication that you have picked up a food bug. Therefore, if abdomen pain has you doubled over and rushing off to the toilet, it’s an unfortunate sign that bad bacteria are working in your gut.
These are the hallmarks of food poisoning, but how soon these symptoms show up depends entirely on the strain of bacteria this is making you sick. For example, Listeria, commonly found in hummus, deli meats, raw milk, and soft cheeses, can trigger symptoms anywhere from 3-70 days after exposure. On the other hand, Salmonella, most commonly found in raw eggs, poultry, and fruit and vegetables can cause symptoms to appear within 12-72 hours.
This is another clear food poisoning sign, but how can you tell common diarrhea caused by a stomach virus from that which is caused by contaminated food? Some clues can be found in the type of diarrhea you have. The norovirus is the most common cause of stomach flu and it can be spread via consuming food prepared by a contaminated individual. This causes watery diarrhea, most commonly in adults. On the other hand, E. coli and Campylobacter can both cause bloody diarrhea. Your diarrhea can last 1-10 days, depending on what you have been infected with.
If your brain starts to feel fuzzy, don’t ignore it as Listeria can cause this to happen, and it might not appear for 2 months after you consumed contaminated food. You might also have a stiff neck and overall weakness. You should always seek medical attention for any unexplained mental changes.
If you do find yourself dealing with food poisoning, you need to drink lots of water or electrolyte-fortified solutions such as Gatorade or Pedialyte. You need to avoid sugary, caffeinated, and alcoholic beverages since these will dehydrate you. You should also nibble on foods such as white rice, toast, and bananas.
Food poisoning can be contracted from pretty much any food, but common culprits include undercooked or raw meat, fruit, and veggies that haven’t been washed before consumption, raw unpasteurized milk, and anything that has been left unrefrigerated or left out in the sun for long periods of time.
How Can I Protect Myself?
There’s only so much that you can do when it comes to eating at restaurants or consuming prepared foods from the grocery store, but when you’re cooking at home, it’s important to practice safe food handling. This includes keeping your workspace and utensils nice and clean (especially after working with raw meat), thoroughly washing raw produce, storing food at the proper temperatures, monitoring expiration dates, and being mindful of how long you have kept leftovers for.