Food is the key to maintaining good health. A hygienic, healthy and well-balanced diet provides a child with all the essential nutrients required for growth and development. But when children consume contaminated food, they can fall prey to food poisoning. Almost every child suffers from food poisoning at least once in his lifetime. And although most cases of food poisoning resolve on their own, complications do occur in some instances. Let’s take a look at food poisoning in children in some detail.
There are two common causes of food poisoning in kids:
- Infectious agents: When food is prepared under poor hygienic conditions, it can become contaminated with infectious pathogens. Upon eating such infected food, the pathogens enter the body and start releasing toxins, which causes food poisoning. Some of the common infectious agents are Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Listeria, Campylobacter and Shigella.
- Toxic agents: Food contamination by pesticides or making poor food choices like eating poisonous mushrooms or puffer fish can also lead to food poisoning. But in this case, it is the toxins present in the food that cause the sickness. Timely treatment of food poisoning can prevent fatalities.
Signs and symptoms
The signs and symptoms of food poisoning depend on the cause of poisoning. They can start to show up anywhere from an hour to a few hours after eating the contaminated food.
Some of the usual signs of mild food poisoning are:
- Abdominal pains and cramps
- Mild fever
Some life-threatening symptoms of food poisoning include:
- Persistent diarrhoea for more than three days
- Fever higher than 101.5°F
- Difficulty seeing or speaking
- Difficulty keeping fluids down
- Symptoms of severe dehydration, such as dry mouth or passing little to no urine
Common food-poisoning culprits
You can prevent food poisoning in kids by avoiding the following foods while eating out.
- Leafy greens
- Raw or undercooked eggs
- Raw fruits, vegetables, sprouts, meat or poultry
- Seafood such as shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops
- Milk, dairy products and unpasteurised fruit juice
When to call the doctor
Call your doctor or nurse if you notice any of the following:
- The child suddenly develops fever over 101°F
- The stomach pain becomes severe
- The diarrhoea worsens or becomes bloody
- Signs of dehydration like dry mouth, decreased urine output or sunken eyes
- The child's condition does not improve within 24 hours
How to prevent food poisoning
You can prevent food poisoning at home by following these simple steps.
- Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after preparing food
- Never keep food on a surface where raw meat or eggs were kept
- Rinse fruits and vegetables in running tap water to remove visible dirt
- Clean countertops with hot water and soap
- Disinfect sponges with a bleach and water solution
Food poisoning can be a debilitating condition for a child. As a parent, you need to exercise great caution regarding what your child eats. Simple cases of food poisoning can be treated with home remedies by using ingredients like ginger, fenugreek seeds and yoghurt, and garlic.