The Food Poisoning 411

Warm weather and eating outside can raise the risk of salmonella

(RxWiki News) As the weather warms up, you are probably thinking about spending more time outdoors. And, of course, you will have to pick out the perfect snacks for these outings. As fun as this all sounds, it can quickly become dangerous if you're not careful.

Unfortunately, a bunch of bacteria are every bit as excited about your summertime picnics as you are. One such bacterium is called salmonella.

Salmonella can cause an infection of the digestive system called salmonellosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 1.35 million salmonella infections occur in the United States each year.

People typically develop symptoms between 12 and 72 hours after becoming infected. So, what are the symptoms of salmonella infection?

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stomach pain/cramps
  • Diarrhea (may have blood in stool)
  • Fever 
  • Headache

Salmonellosis symptoms last for four to seven days on average and resolve without treatment for most people. However, an estimated 420 people die each year. Young children, older adults and those with weakened immune systems are at risk for complications associated with the infection. 

If you have signs of severe dehydration, seek medical attention right away. These signs include the following:

  • Decreased urine output
  • Dry mouth and tongue

Furthermore, if you have diarrhea that is not getting better for more than three days and a fever higher than 102°F, call your doctor. 

How do you get salmonella? It can spread via the following:

  • Food handlers who do not wash their hands
  • People eating raw or undercooked foods
  • From animals (birds and reptiles) to people

Some individuals are more susceptible to salmonella infection:

  • Those who use antacids
  • Those who have inflammatory bowel disease
  • Those who have a recent history of antibiotic use

Those who are immune-compromised and those who travel to countries with poor sanitation are at a higher risk for salmonella infection. 

How can you prevent foodborne illness at home? Here are some tips:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water after handling food, using the toilet, touching pet food or feces and sanitizing the kitchen.
  • Cook your foods to the appropriate temperature. 
  • Refrigerate or freeze unused portions of food immediately.
  • Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other items in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Never eat food off of a plate that held raw meat or eggs or with a utensil that touched those items.
  • Do not consume raw eggs.

If you have questions, reach out to your health care provider.