According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), food poisoning affects one in sixAmericans each year. There are more than 250 foodborne diseases caused by bacteria, chemicals, parasites, and viruses, so the chances of you contracting something nasty from an innocent-looking meal aren’t that remote.
When you start feeling queasy after dinner, how can you tell if it’s food poisoning or the stomach flu?
Here are a few signs you have food poisoning and not just a stomach virus.
You start feeling sick right after eating.
If you start getting queasy right after eating, you might be dealing with food poisoning.
According to Healthline, the incubation period for most common food poisoning bacteria, viruses, and parasites is two to six hours.In contrast, the incubation period for a stomach virus is normally 24 to 48 hours after exposure.
This means that a bad plate of shellfish could have you heaving before you even leave the restaurant, while a stomach virus takes longer to show symptoms.
You have bloody stools.
Do you suspect that your upset stomach is actually food poisoning? Bloody diarrhoea is a good indicator that you’re fighting more than just a stomach virus.
The CDC advised that bloody stools or diarrhoea can be a symptom of illnesses like E. coli and Campylobacter poisoning. Medical News Today also reported that a stomach virus does not usually cause bloody stools, which can be a sign of a more serious condition such as food poisoning.
Around 5% to 10% of people diagnosed with E. coli develop a life-threatening complication, so you should definitely call your doctor if you notice blood in the toilet.
You have a stiff neck.
According to the CDC, listeriosis caused by Listeria bacteria is the third-leading cause of death from food poisoning in the US. About 260 people die from this infection each year.
Neck stiffness is a distinctive symptom of listeriosis that usually doesn’t present in cases of a stomach virus, reported the CDC. This stiffness is more common in older people and those with a compromised immune system.
The CDC also reported that pregnant Hispanic women are 24 times more likely to get listeriosis than the general population.
You have a bad headache.
According to the CDC,a blinding headache can also be a sign of listeriosis. This symptom is most commonly seen in older adults and people who have been diagnosed with another medical condition such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, liver disease, or kidney disease.
Interestingly, pregnant women with a Listeria infection usually don’t experience common symptoms of the illness such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, and loss of balance.
Your vision is blurred.
A common symptom of food poisoning by the botulism bacterium Clostridium botulinum is blurred vision and drooping eyelids, according to the CDC.
Botulism is a rare type of food poisoning that can cause permanent damage to your body and even lead to death. It’s commonly contracted from the consumption of improperly canned or fermented foods.
Though botulism is very rare, it is an extremely serious illness and you should contact medical professionals if you suspect you have it.
Your speech is slurred.
The NHS advised that slurred speech can be a sign of botulism. The toxins produced by the botulism bacteria attack the nervous system and can paralyse muscles, including those involved in speaking.
Botulism symptoms tend to start in the head and work their way down as the severity of the illness increases, cautioned the CDC. This means that in the case of botulism, you’re more likely to experience vision problems before paralysis of any lower facial muscles.
Of course, if you’re feeling queasy after a few too many glasses of wine with dinner, alcohol is more likely to be behind the slurred speech.
You’re having difficulty breathing.
Another serious sign of botulism is difficulty breathing, according to the CDC.
The NHS advised that since the paralysis caused by botulism typically works its way downwards from the head, experiencing trouble breathing can be a signal that the illness is beginning to paralyse the respiratory muscles.
An individual experiencing difficulty breathing for any reason should get medical help immediately.
You’re incredibly thirsty, especially when standing.
Healthline reported that one common symptom of food poisoning is intense thirst. This is caused by dehydration following extended bouts of vomiting or sweating and tends to worsen when standing.
Though it’s also possible to become dehydrated while battling a stomach bug, Healthline also reported that food poisoning often causes prolonged vomiting or diarrhoea that can lead an individual to experience severe dehydration very quickly.
If you’re unable to keep fluids down and start experiencing severe thirst, you should call your doctor for guidance or treatment.
You’ve recently eaten unpasteurized cheese, raw eggs, undercooked rice, or raw fish.
Improper food storage or handling can lead to bacterial growth and cross-contamination. This can turn otherwise safe foods into dangerous poisons.
According to the CDC,certain foods are more likely to cause food poisoning. These include raw or undercooked poultry; raw milk; queso fresco and other soft cheeses; raw sprouts; shellfish; undercooked eggs; smoked seafood; and raw fruit juices.
If you start to feel sick after consuming any of these risky foods, food poisoning could be to blame.
You start feeling better within a day.
Stomach bugs caused by common viruses such as norovirus, rotavirus, and adenovirus usually cause symptoms that might persist for days, according to Medical News Today.
However, most instances of food poisoning clear up within one day. Some bouts may last as little as a few hours.
Feeling terrible in the morning and good as new by evening is a sign that you were probably dealing with food poisoning and not a stomach bug.
Fellow diners are also feeling ill.
If you and your friends all ate the same potato salad and are now all doubled up in pain, chances are that food poisoning is to blame.
Healthline advised that the incubation period of most common stomach bugs is between 24 and 48 hours. This means that transmitting a virus from person to person would cause each individual to show symptoms at different times. If you and your friends have all fallen in within a few hours of each other, contaminated food is the more likely source.
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