5 tips for protecting yourself from food poisoning


July 2019

Article by: Lisa Erickson, DNP
Family Medicine Nurse Practitioner, Luck Clinic - Amery Hospital & Clinic

When I think of summer picnics, thoughts of big family gatherings come to mind. The picture is painted with children running around a park pavilion. And of course there’s a table loaded with salads, side dishes and desserts that are ready for everyone to enjoy.

But do you know how long you can leave out food before it goes bad? After all, no one wants to be the person who gives the whole neighborhood food poisoning…

As a family medicine clinician, I’m no stranger to treating patients with foodborne illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 6 Americans get sick from food poisoning each year. And usually, I see an increase in cases during the summer. So to help my patients avoid getting sick from spoiled food, I share these 5 tips with them about safe food preparation:

1. Wash your hands.

Be sure to scrub with warm water and soap before and after handling food and, of course, after using the bathroom.

2. Keep raw foods separate from cooked foods.

Never put cooked food on an unwashed plate that previously held raw food. Make sure to use separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables, too.

3. Use a cooler.

Cars can get up to 120 degrees in just 10 to 15 minutes on hot days. Cold foods should be stored with ice or frozen gel packs until serving time. Hot foods should be stored in an insulated container.

4. Use the 2 hour rule.

Food should not sit out in the sun any longer than 2 hours. If it’s 90 degrees or hotter, that time limit drops to 1 hour.

5. Cook foods thoroughly.

Beef and pork should be grilled until all the pink is gone. Chicken should be cooked until there is no red in the joints. Fresh fish should cook until it flakes with a fork.

Symptoms of food poisoning and how to treat them

Food poisoning usually causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps or fever. These symptoms can start fast, within just one hour. Or, they can hit up to 10 days later. Symptoms, severity and longevity all depends on the type of bacteria, virus or parasite that caused the food poisoning.

In most cases of mild to moderate food poisoning, symptoms last 1 to 2 days and do not require medical treatment. Make sure you get plenty of rest, and that you don’t get dehydrated. Drink plenty of water (or other caffeine-free clear liquids), and drink it in frequent, small amounts. If you drink too much too fast, you might throw up.

When you start to eat again, avoid spicy, hot or high-fat foods. Instead, opt for mild foods like toast, yogurt, applesauce, bananas and rice. You’ll also still want to say no to alcohol or caffeine for another day or two. And hold off on dairy products like milk and ice cream until you’re back to feeling 100%.

If you are still experiencing symptoms after 3 days or have any of the symptoms below, call your doctor immediately. 

  • Blood in your vomit or stool
  • Blurry vision, muscle weakness or tingling in arms
  • Signs of dehydration (extreme thirst, dry mouth, dizziness, confusion, light-headed, decreased urination)
  • Diarrhea for more than 3 days
  • Extreme pain or abdominal cramps
  • Fever
  • Frequent vomiting-can’t keep liquids down
If you don’t have a doctor or clinician, call Amery Hospital & Clinic at 715-268-8000.

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