A wa­tery sit­u­a­tion

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Digestive Health & You -

LIV­ING in Malaysia means ev­ery day can be a gas­tro­nomic ad­ven­ture. Many in­di­vid­u­als, es­pe­cially those liv­ing in ur­ban ar­eas, rely on hawker stalls and restau­rants to get most of their meals.

Al­though tasty and con­ve­nient, eat­ing out all the time ex­poses one to a higher risk of food poi­son­ing, which can prove to be dan­ger­ous and even fa­tal if im­me­di­ate med­i­cal at­ten­tion is not sought.

Food poi­son­ing oc­curs when con­tam­i­nated food is con­sumed. The food could be con­tam­i­nated through con­tact with fae­cal mat­ter dur­ing han­dling or pre­pared with con­tam­i­nated in­gre­di­ents and/or wa­ter.

The two most com­mon types of bac­te­ria re­spon­si­ble for food poi­son­ing are Escherichia coli and Sta­phy­lo­coc­cus aureus. Other types of bac­te­ria that cause se­vere food poi­son­ing symp­toms in­clude Sal­monella, Shigella, cholera and Campy­lobac­ter en­teri­tis.

Food poi­son­ing oc­curs in the gut, mainly the small and large in­testines. The vir­u­lent bac­te­ria pro­duce harm­ful tox­ins that elicit in­flam­ma­tion in the bowel sys­tem.

In­flam­ma­tion leads to symp­toms such as abdominal cramps, fever and chills, nau­sea, vom­it­ing and di­ar­rhoea. Bloody di­ar­rhoea and feel­ing weak are more se­ri­ous symp­toms of food poi­son­ing.

Doc­tors of­ten di­ag­nose and treat food poi­son­ing based on pa­tients’ de­scrip­tion of symp­toms and stool tex­ture as well as a phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion of the ab­domen. If there is a re­ported out­break of a cer­tain in­fec­tion, doc­tors may pre­scribe a stool test to iden­tify the bac­te­ria.

Se­vere cases in­volv­ing haem­or­rhage may war­rant a sig­moi­doscopy where a thin hol­low tube with a cam­era is in­serted through the rec­tum to iden­tify sources of bleed­ing or in­fec­tion.

The most com­mon treat­ment op­tion for food poi­son­ing is en­sur­ing that a pa­tient does not ex­pe­ri­ence de­hy­dra­tion from ex­ces­sive loss of flu­ids. This in­cludes manag­ing di­ar­rhoea as well as con­trol­ling the nau­sea and vom­it­ing.

Pa­tients may be pre­scribed oral re­hy­dra­tion mix­tures to re­plen­ish flu­ids and min­er­als lost through di­ar­rhoea and vom­it­ing. If nec­es­sary, they may also be given an­tibi­otics to stop the in­fec­tion.

Un­der ex­treme cir­cum­stances of de­hy­dra­tion, the doc­tor may ad­mit a pa­tient to a hos­pi­tal so that he may re­ceive in­tra­venous (IV) saline fluid restora­tion and med­i­ca­tion.

In­fants, preg­nant women and the elderly tend to man­i­fest more se­ri­ous symp­toms of food poi­son­ing. There­fore, close at­ten­tion must be paid to their symp­toms and treat­ment.

In terms of diet, it is rec­om­mended that pa­tients with food poi­son­ing cease the con­sump­tion of solid foods un­til they have been re­hy­drated and stopped vom­it­ing and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing di­ar­rhoea.

Once they feel bet­ter, they can try con­sum­ing foods such as crack­ers, toasts, ba­nana, clear soups, de­caf­feinated tea and por­ridge.

It may take some time to be on their feet again, so they should not rush into con­sum­ing dairy, high-fat and spicy foods upon re­cov­ery.

Pa­tients re­quire plenty of rest and should take the day off their du­ties to re­gain strength. With proper treat­ment, they should re­cover from food poi­son­ing within 12 to 48 hours.

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