Food Poisoning and How to Prevent It
Although avoiding food poisoning can be quite obvious, many people still suffer from it, particularly children who aren’t able to make judgments on what is best to consume. With that being said, food poisoning is still a common occurrence here in the UAE.
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It develops a better understanding of its causes and how to avoid it is essential, especially for expatriates who are coming from other countries and are not accustomed to the cuisine here in the Middle East. The Dubai Health Authority reported that there were over 800 food poisoning cases in the UAE last year.
Also known as foodborne illness, food poisoning is the result of eating foods that have been contaminated, spoiled or are filled with harmful toxins or bacteria that the stomach is unable to digest and ends up rejecting. Food poisoning can range from mild to serious in severity and can even be fatal without proper treatment.
Symptoms of Food Poisoning
If you do end up getting food poisoning, you would indeed find out from its symptoms within 24 hours of contamination. Depending on the cause and source of the food poisoning, food poisoning can last from a few hours to an entire month. The most common symptoms of food poisoning include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Acid reflux
- Loss of appetite
More serious and even life-threatening symptoms include:
- Severe dehydration
- Difficulty speaking
- Blood in urine or faeces
- Impaired vision
If you notice any of the above life-threatening symptoms, speak with a doctor immediately or visit your nearest hospital for treatment.
Causes of Food Poisoning
There are many causes of food poisoning. It’s from poor hygiene and consuming spoiled foods, but let’s identify what exactly causes food poisoning in our bodies when we consume high-risk foods. Most food poisoning cases are due to the following three major risk factors:
- Bacteria – This is by far the most common cause of why food poisoning occurs. Dangerous bakeries such as W. Coli, Salmonella and Listeria are often associated with food poisoning. Salmonella is the most common type of bacterial food poisoning and can land you in the hospital.
- Parasites – Although not as common as bacteria in food, parasites can be spread through food and is a very dangerous type of goofed poisoning. In terms of food poisoning, toxoplasmosis is the parasite doing the damage most of the time. Parasites in the body are known to weaken the immune system, mess up the digestive tract as well as take up residence in your intestines for an extended period of time.
- Viruses – Food poisoning can also be caused by viruses such as the Norovirus, known to cause of 19 million cases of food poisoning around the world in a year. In rare cases, food poisoning that is caused by a virus can prove fatal. Sapovirus, rotavirus, and astrovirus are also known to pose the same symptoms of food poisoning.
Preventing Food Poisoning
Food poisoning can be prevented just by watching what you eat and sticking to safe, sanitary protocols. Washing your hand and sanitizing your cooking and food prep equipment is essential. Knowing how to store, cook and prepare high-risk foods such as meat, dairy, shellfish, raw fish as well as poultry will also have a strong effect on the prevention of food poisoning.
Once you get food poisoning, there’s no avoiding its symptoms and effects, making prevention an essential point to understand and keep in mind when you’re preparing and consuming food. Here are a couple of things to look out for before mealtimes.
- Wash your hands before you prepare or consume food. Especially if you are eating with your hands. Thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water will help to prevent the spread of bacteria from your hands into your food
- When eating out, choose your options wisely. If the place you are dining at seems a little dodgy or has an unhygienic environment, the risk of food contamination is higher than you think. Be sure to check reviews as well as sussing out the environment before dining in.
- Follow product labels effectively. Follow preparation instructions, storage instructions as well as keeping an eye on the use-by dates on food packaging.
- Drink only filtered water. The water quality in the UAE isn’t the greatest, and so you can get seriously ill just from drinking tap water, even for locals. Be sure always to drink clean water that has been filtered.
- Keep an eye on high-risk foods. This includes meats that may not have been cooked properly, dairy products that have not been stored in the right temperatures, fruit, and vegetables that have been washed with dirty water or cut with utensils that have not been sanitized.
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