What to do when faced with food poisoning

Why should you be careful in summer when eating eggs or mayonnaise? In the summer, mothers often repeat ad nauseam that you have to be careful with certain foods, especially if you eat outside the home. The reason is simple, at this time food poisoning increases by eating foods that contain toxic microorganisms.

Poisonings in summer are more frequent for two main reasons, as noted by Angela Rodríguez de Cossio, family doctor of the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians (Semergen) and member of the society’s Nutrition Working Group.

“On the one hand, because natural causes favor it , since bacteria, which are present in the soil, air or water, grow faster in the hot months (they need temperatures between 36 and 37 degrees to live and reproduce. ) and on the other hand, there is a greater tendency to eat outside the home (barbecues, picnics, swimming pools, trips, etc.), where the security controls are not the same as in a domestic kitchen ”, Rodríguez de Cossio explains.

Among the main errors that are made to increase the risk of poisoning, the specialist points out maintaining inadequate storage temperatures, undercooking food, poor hygiene and leaving cooked products at room temperature for several hours.

The severity of a poisoning and the symptoms that a person presents will depend on the amount of contaminated food eaten, the person and the type of organism that causes the contamination.

The first symptoms usually appear between 2-6 hours after ingestion. The most common are stomach upset, diarrhea , fever, vomiting, abdominal cramps, dehydration, general weakness, and headache. ” The people who are most susceptible to suffering from this type of ailments are children, pregnant women , the elderly and individuals with weakened immune systems, so special attention must be paid to these groups,” he adds.

Foods that cause more poisoning

Seafood should be eaten as fresh as possible, better on the day of purchase.

Among the foods that most frequently cause food poisoning Rodríguez de Cossio highlights:


This food may contain the Salmonella bacteria , which causes diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. The risk of poisoning is greater when eaten poorly cooked, with the soft yolk, or raw, in the case of the mayonnaise preparation.

“A good option is to opt for pasteurized eggs, since this process eliminates possible bacteria,” recommends the Semergen spokeswoman.


According to the specialist, homemade mayonnaise is the ideal to avoid poisoning , the problem is that the risk of contamination is great if there is a lack of hygiene and handling.

“You should never eat mayonnaise that is in packaging or containers outside the refrigerator,” he says. “It is preferable to take mayonnaise, served in individual disposable airtight bags.”

Green leafy vegetables

The leafy green vegetables offered in buffet restaurants may contain hidden bacteria. The expert points out that in these cases it is not enough to wash them with water (unlike at home, where the product can be sanitized as well), it is necessary to disinfect to eliminate microorganisms.

“Vegetables should be left to soak for approximately 15 minutes in a solution of water and sodium hypochlorite. For each liter of water we need a spoon of hypochlorite of good origin and without odor ”, he adds.


Meats can also contain bacteria like Clostridium perfringens . The meat must always be kept at a temperature below 5º and, at the time of consumption, take it well done.


Raw or undercooked seafood can contain harmful viruses and bacteria. To avoid poisoning, it is necessary to follow some handling and hygiene measures.

Thus, we must ensure that they have a good smell and a bright appearance (although the color of the mussels does not always reflect the quality, but rather indicates whether they are female or male). In addition, the shells of clams, cockles, mussels, and oysters must be tightly closed . If they are not closed it means that the animal is no longer alive. The liquid that sometimes comes off the shells has to be clear, abundant and smells of the sea.


The sausages must be removed from the original packaging and stored in containers with lids.

“At the time of serving, you have to use a fork to take an individual slice, avoiding manipulating the food with your hands,” he indicates before adding that it is better to consume it within two days after opening. “If you see that the sausage has a color change, it is a sign that the bacteria are already present,” he insists.

Canned products

Canned products have an internal varnish that preserves their content; however, small bumps can break this protection . When opening a can, you have to make sure that there are no bubbles, as if it were fermenting.

“If we open a can and do not want to consume all of its contents, the best thing to do is remove it from the packaging and store it in another container with a tightly closed lid and consume it for up to three days,” he specifies.

Hot dog

Finally, the specialist highlights that the hot dog sausage can carry the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria . To avoid consuming sausages that are not refrigerated, it is necessary to cook them for five minutes.

How to treat them

In most cases the poisonings are mild and the symptoms disappear in two or three days, when the contaminated food is completely eliminated.

“However, food poisoning can be aggravated, even causing the death of the person affected, although these extreme and very rare cases are caused by Clostridium botulinum poisoning, which causes botulism, for example,” adds Rodríguez de Cossio.

In general, the following steps can alleviate symptoms of food poisoning and prevent dehydration in adults:

  • Drink plenty of fluidslike fruit juices, caffeine-free beverages, and broths to replace fluids and electrolytes.
  • Drink small sips ofclear liquids or crushed ice if there is still a problem with vomiting.
  • Gradually reintroduce food. We can start with soft, easy-to-digest foods such as rice, toast or bread, cereal, lean meat, applesauce, and bananas, and avoid fatty, sugary, dairy , caffeine, and alcoholic foods until complete recovery.
  • Babies and children have special concerns. They are likely to become dehydrated more quickly from diarrhea and vomiting, so consult your pediatrician.


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