Food poisoning can be mild and last just a short time or can be more serious. Let's
find out how to avoid it.
What Is Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning comes from eating foods that contain germs
like bad bacteria or toxins. Bacteria are all around us, so mild cases of food poisoning
are common. These can cause diarrhea and an upset stomach. When this happens, you
might hear your parents call it a stomach bug or stomach virus.
You might think the solution is to get rid of all the bacteria. But that isn't
possible and you wouldn't want to do it, even if you could. Bacteria are all around
us, including in food, and sometimes they can be good for us. You can learn how to
avoid bad germs in food.
Sometimes feeling sick from food poisoning shows up within hours of eating the
bad food. At other times, someone may not feel sick until several days later. With
mild cases of food poisoning, you will not feel sick for very long and will soon be
feeling fine again.
It can be hard to tell if you have food poisoning or something else. You might
do a little detective work and see who else gets the same sickness. Did they eat the
same thing you did? If only people who ate that food got sick, food poisoning could
be the problem.
Which Germs Are to Blame?
Foods from animals, raw foods, and unwashed vegetables
all can contain germs that cause food poisoning. The most likely source is food from
animals, like meat, poultry (such as chicken), eggs, milk, and shellfish (such as
To avoid food poisoning, people need to prepare, cook, and store foods properly.
What Will the Doctor Do?
The doctor will ask you a lot of questions about how you're feeling, when you first
felt sick, what you ate in the past few days, and if anyone else you know is also
sick. The doctor might also take a sample of your stool (poop) and urine (pee) to
test for possible germs that might have caused food poisoning.
The treatment you'll get for food poisoning will depend on the germ that is making
you sick. The doctor might give you medicine, but most of the time someone who has
food poisoning doesn't need to take medicine.
It's also rare that a kid with food poisoning would need to go to the hospital.
Usually, only people who get really dehydrated
have to go to the hospital. Being dehydrated means your body has lost too much fluid
due to diarrhea and vomiting. A dehydrated
person can get fluids and medicine through an IV at the hospital. To keep from getting
dehydrated, try to keep drinking liquids when you're sick.
You may also need to go to the hospital if you have blood in your poop. If you
do see blood in your poop, you should definitely tell your parents about it.
How Can I Prevent Food Poisoning?
Many things can be done to prevent food poisoning. These precautions should be
taken at every stage a food takes — from preparation to cooking to storing leftovers.
A lot of this responsibility falls on grown-ups, but kids can help fight germs too.
One of the best ways is to wash your
hands if you're helping to make foods.
When should you wash? Before you start helping — so germs from your hands
don't get on the food — and after so you don't pass along germs from the food
to yourself or anyone else.
Other ways to keep your food safe include:
Wash fruits and vegetables well before eating them.
Only eat foods that are properly cooked. If you cut into chicken and it looks
pink and raw inside, tell a grown-up.
Look at what you're eating and smell it too. If something looks or smells different
from normal, check with an adult before eating or drinking it. Milk is a good example.
If you've ever had a sip of sour milk, you know you never want to taste that again!
Mold (which can be green, pink, white, or brown) is also often a sign that food has
If you're going to eat leftovers, ask a grown-up for help heating them up. By
heating them, you can kill bacteria that grew while it was in the fridge.
Check the date. Lots of packaged foods have expiration dates or "sell by" dates
(which means that the food should leave store shelves by that time). Don't eat a food
if today's date is after the expiration date. Use it before it expires. Ask an adult
for help deciding if it's past the sell by date.
Cover and refrigerate food right away. Bacteria get a good chance to grow in foods
that sit at room temperature. By putting food in the fridge, you're putting the chill
on those bad germs!