Food poisoning sucks, but if you do get it, you should know how to figure out which type it is, what you're in for, and the best way to deal with it so you can feel better.
Image from Mishio.
When you have food poisoning, stay hydrated and do what you can to contain any bacteria you might spread to housemates. Most people don't realise that not all food poisoning is the same, though. If you have severe symptoms that last for days it might be more than a bad burrito. It might be a more serious type of infection deeper in your digestive system. In that case, you should seek medical attention if you're sick for more than a day or two. The Naked Scientist podcast recently (40:30) explored the two types of food poisoning you typically experience:
- Food that was poorly handled or stored: This usually sets in pretty quickly and gets through your system in a shorter amount of time as well. The cause is often toxins caused by bacteria. Generally, this is the less serious type, although that doesn't mean it feels any less awful.
- Bacterial infection: A bacteria, like salmonella, gets into your digestive system and survives into your intestines where it can cause damage to the cells there. Many of the symptoms are similar to the first type of food poisoning, but can last for longer and in some cases be life threatening.
Since neither type of food poisoning is something you want to get, you can minimise risk at home by making sure food is handled properly, such as cooking meat long enough and avoiding cross-contamination.