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Alternative practitioners offer the same advice as traditional practitioners concerning diet modification, treatment of diarrhea and vomiting, and prevention of dehydration. Charcoal tablets, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and citrus seed extract can be taken to help normalize the digestive system. An electrolyte replacement fluid can be made at home by adding one teaspoon of salt and four teaspoons of sugar to one quart of water. For food poisoning other than botulism, two homeopathic remedies, either Arsenicum
Most cases of food poisoning (except botulism) clear up on their own within one week without medical assistance. As symptoms subside, the individual may continue to feel tired or weak for a few days. If dehydration has been effectively corrected or prevented, few complications can be expected. Deaths are rare and usually occur in the very young, the very old, and people whose immune systems are already weakened.
Complications of salmonella food poisoning may include arthritis-like symptoms that occur three to four weeks after infection. Although deaths from salmonella infection are rare, they do occur. Most deaths reported have occurred among elderly adults in long-term care.
Adults usually recover from E. coli poisoning without medical intervention, but many children require hospitalization for contamination with this organism. Toxins may be absorbed into the blood stream where they destroy red blood cells and platelets, tiny cells important in blood clotting. About 5 percent of victims develop hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), which can result in sudden kidney failure that requires a medical procedure (dialysis) to perform the kidney's task of filtering the body's waste products.
Botulism is the deadliest of the bacterial food-borne illnesses. With prompt medical care, the death rate is less than 10 percent in children and adults.
Food poisoning is almost entirely preventable by practicing good sanitation and good food handling techniques. These include the following measures:
Antitoxin—An antibody against an exotoxin, usually derived from horse serum.
Culture—A test in which a sample of body fluid is placed on materials specially formulated to grow microorganisms. A culture is used to learn what type of bacterium is causing infection.
Diuretics—A group of drugs that helps remove excess water from the body by increasing the amount lost by urination.
Electrolytes—Salts and minerals that produce electrically charged particles (ions) in body fluids. Common human electrolytes are sodium chloride, potassium, calcium, and sodium bicarbonate. Electrolytes control the fluid balance of the body and are important in muscle contraction, energy generation, and almost all major biochemical reactions in the body.
Hemolysis—The process of breaking down red blood cells. As the cells are destroyed, hemoglobin, the component of red blood cells which carries the oxygen, is liberated.
Lactobacillus acidophilus—Commonly known as acidophilus, a bacteria found in yogurt that changes the balance of the bacteria in the intestine in a beneficial way.
Neurological—Relating to the brain and central nervous system.
Neurotoxin—A poison that acts directly on the central nervous system.
Platelet—A cell-like particle in the blood that plays an important role in blood clotting. Platelets are activated when an injury causes a blood vessel to break. They change shape from round to spiny, "sticking" to the broken vessel wall and to each other to begin the clotting process. In addition to physically plugging breaks in blood vessel walls, platelets also release chemicals that promote clotting.
Spore—A dormant form assumed by some bacteria, such as anthrax, that enable the bacterium to survive high temperatures, dryness, and lack of nourishment for long periods of time. Under proper conditions, the spore may revert to the actively multiplying form of the bacteria. Also refers to the small, thick-walled reproductive structure of a fungus.
Toxin—A poisonous substance usually produced by a microorganism or plant.
It is especially important to discard any food that seems spoiled and not to eat food that has been stored at room temperature or above for more than a few hours. Home canners must be diligent about using sterile equipment and following U.S. Department of Agriculture canning guidelines.
Infant botulism is perhaps the most difficult poisoning to prevent, because what goes into an infant's mouth is often beyond control. One important preventative measure, however, is to avoid feeding honey to infants younger than 12 months since it is a known source of botulism spores. As infants begin eating solid foods, the same food precautions should be followed as for older children and adults.
Author Info: L. Lee Culvert, Suzanne M. Lutwick MPH, Thomson Gale, Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health, 2006
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