What are the symptoms of food poisoning? Can I self-medicate or should I consult a doctor?

Symptoms of food poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and/or fever. They are similar to those of viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu), but are caused by viruses transmitted through direct or indirect contact with an infected person. If multiple people fall ill simultaneously after eating food from a common source, food poisoning is the likely cause.

Self-medicating may be appropriate if symptoms are mild and improve with medication. If you feel nauseous or have mild vomiting but can still retain fluids orally, drink small amounts at frequent intervals, for example, half a cup every 15 to 30 minutes.

Try not to drink only water as it does not provide any electrolytes or calories. You can alternate plain water with fluids such as barley water, rice water, diluted juice, clear soup, diluted milk (for babies and young children) or oral rehydration solutions.

If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar level a few times a day and consider omitting a dose of medication if you have poor appetite and your sugar level is not high.

Young children, the elderly and those with diabetes, kidney and heart disease are more vulnerable and should be assessed by a doctor early. If vomiting persists, seek medical assistance. As adequate oral rehydration is not possible, you may be given medication via injection or intravenous drip.

If you have high fever, diarrhoea or abdominal pain that does not improve after a few days, get a doctor to assess if antibiotics or referral to a hospital is required. When in doubt, it is safer to consult a doctor. Those with kidney or heart disease, and who are on a strict fluid-restricted diet, should consult a doctor as close monitoring is needed and home management may not be feasible.

Article contributed by Dr Oh Jen Jen, Head and Consultant, Emergency and 24hr Clinic Services of Mount Alvernia Hospital.

This article is taken from our MyAlvernia Magazine Issue #37. Click here to read the issue on our website or on Magzter.

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