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If you have ever eaten contaminated food and gone through the resulting illness it caused, these tips on food poisoning will help you to understand how to prevent it and what to do if you are unfortunate enough to be stricken again.

It is a little known fact that some of the bacteria that causes food poisoning is carried on the skin. Even though these bacteria are harmless in the small quantities found on skin, when they reach improperly stored foods they can double in number every twenty minutes. These bacteria produce toxins and the illness that follows the ingestion of contaminated foods can be caused either by these toxins or the bacteria themselves. Although many people believe that the color or smell of some foods will indicate the presence of these bacteria or toxins, this is not true. When contaminated food is frozen this does not kill the bacteria. Cooking contaminated foods will kill the bacteria but it will not destroy the toxins or spores.

To insure that foods are not contaminated you should always wash your hands before handling it. Foods should be cooked to 212 degrees fahrenheit to kill surface bacteria and all frozen meats should be thawed so that cooking heat can reach the center. Never freeze foods that have already been thawed and always serve cooked foods immediately. If you do not plan to eat the food immediately, it should be stored in the refrigerator. At picnics avoid mayonnaise, bologna, cream fillings and custards since these food nourish bacteria. Never eat foods that have a bad or unusual odor. If you ingest contaminated food you will show symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting. This will, in most cases, last about 24 hours. Drink as much water or weak tea as you can tolerate during this period. Any symptoms that last longer than two days or if a child under age three is showing symptoms, consult a doctor immediately. Also, if watery diarrhea strikes every 10 to 15 minutes or if there is blood or mucus in the stool get emergency help. Other signs that you may need immediate help are fever and abdominal pain. Botulism is a rare life threatening form of food poisoning that causes nausea and vomiting about 12 to 36 hours after a contaminated food has been eaten. This is followed by dry mouth and throat, weak muscles, blurred vision, unsteadiness, difficulty swallowing, speaking and breathing. In the case of botulism, immediate hospitalization is necessary. Try to identify the food and take a sample to the hospital with you.

Improperly handled chicken, eggs, meats, raw milk, egg products, carmine red dyes, contaminated marijuana and even pet reptiles can carry salmonella. There are approximately 2,200 types of salmonella that are known, including the type that causes typhoid fever. Symptoms include gastrointestinal upset that starts 12 to 48 hours after contamination. It produces, diarrhea, fever and sometimes vomiting. In mild cases the symptoms will last one to four days, but in severe cases it will last much longer. The fever produced by salmonella with cause extreme exhaustion. In mild cases this contamination can be treated with fluids and a bland diet. In severe cases it will need to be treated with antibiotics.