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Focus: Don't let that summer barbecue get you down

The North Platte Telegraph - 7/9/2018

Summer picnics enhance outdoor activities as families and friends gather for warm weather events.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness and 128,000 are hopistalized.

Keeping food safe while serving up favorite dishes is imperative to prevent food poisoning, said Dr. Renee Engler, Great Plains Health emergency services co-medical director.

"There's about 3,000 deaths a year (attributed to) food poisoning," Engler said.

Engler said there is a spike of food poisoning cases during the summer.

"I think you definitely see food poisoning a lot more in the summertime because of picnics, people not keeping their food properly refrigerated," Engler said. "I mean, after an hour in 90 degrees, that's it. About 2 hours is the max if you're not in the heat."

She said sometimes food is left out all day.

"I think sometimes people leave food out all day, their egg salad, lunchmeat, or grilling things that aren't cooked enough," Engler said.

Mike Veith, of North Platte, and his family meet every year for a Fourth of July picnic and on Wednesday were set up at Memorial Park.

"We keep (the food) covered, hot and cold," Veith said. "We have brisket, beans, little smokies, potato salad, macaroni salad, chips and lots of desserts."

He said they always keep the hot food in warmers and the cold food cold as well.

Engler said prevention is the best practice, but to see a doctor when symptoms progress.

"Usually it just runs its course and within a few days, you should be better," Engler said. "However, if you feel that you're getting dehydrated, have light-headedness, decreased urination, high pulse, low blood pressure, horrible muscle aches, you probably need to call your doctor."

Other indications that it's time to call your doctor are fevers higher than 101.5, bloody diarrhea or prolonged illness of more than 3-5 days, Engler said.

She said there are similarities in symptoms of food poisoning as compared to a stomach virus.

"It's sometimes hard to tell, but most of the time you can link (food poisoning) to a food," Engler said. "The incubation period is usually longer for a virus than for food poisoning and with food poisoning, you're more likely to get fevers and bloody diarrhea."

The onset of symptoms varies for different types of food poisoning.

"It depends on the organism," Engler said. "Some of them are within 30 minutes, some of them more prolonged, but usually you can trigger your symptoms to something you ate and usually you'll see symptoms within about 6 hours."

The symptoms vary with the person and the bacteria, Engler said.

"Short term effects are usually the vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, but there can be prolonged long-term effects as well," Engler said. "Obviously, death would be the worst, but kidney failure, chronic arthritis and then you can get neurologic symptoms as well, like paralysis, seizures."

There are several types of bacteria that are worse than others, according to the CDC. On its website the CDC lists the top five as Norovirus, salmonella, clostridium perfringesn, campylobacter and staphylococcus aureus.

"The worst is botulism, which generally comes from improperly canned food," Engler said.

She said symptoms include blurred vision, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, weakness and paralysis.

The CDC said researchers have identified more than 250 foodborne diseases.

Once the diagnosis for food poisoning has been determined, Engler said there are several things the person needs to do to work their way through the process.

"The main thing is you need to stay hydrated," Engler said. "Start with ice chips and sip some water. If you can tolerate that, then progress usually to water or an electrolyte solution like Gatorade for adults, Pedialyte for children."

She said vomiting and diarrhea cause fluid loss if electrolytes need to be replaced.

"Avoid food for the first few hours until your stomach settles down and you're not quite as nauseated," Engler said. "Once you do progress to food, start slowly. Non-fatty foods such as toast, rice, crackers. Stay away from caffeine and dairy products. No alcohol, no bubbly or fizzy drinks, no spicy or fatty foods and get plenty of rest."

Usually the food poisoning runs its course, and within a few days, symptoms should improve, Engler said.


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