Food poisoning and summer

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
June 26, 2008 4:18:17 PM PDT
Food poisoning is not uncommon. And during the summer months, and it can happen with more frequency as people spend more time outdoors for picnics and barbeques.But what's the best course of treatment, and when should you see the doctor?

That picnic potato salad that didn't taste quite right or that tomato sitting in the sun. These can be the sources of infection with any number of germs that can upset your stomach for a couple days at this time of year. For the great majority of sufferers, some simple tips can get you back on your feet.

The pleasures of summertime eating include outdoor tables and lots of fresh fruits and veggies. But sometimes, you can add diarrhea, cramping and stomach pains to that list.

Unfortunately, food poisoning is a big part of the next three months.

"We see vomiting and diarrhea two times a year, in the wintertime, lots of flu bugs, and in the summer," said Dr. Robert Femia, of Lenox Hill Hospital. "Lots of times, it's related to foods. Food at picnics gets left out."

And bugs can grow in the potato salad and on the meat, and they make the toxins that cause food poisoning symptoms. It's mainly the fruits and veggies that are the culprits, rather than meats and poultry, according to a consumer watchdog group. Generally, a day or two in bed works wonders.

"The big thing is to stay hydrated," Dr. Femia said.

It's important to replace the things you lose when you're sick.

When you're sick, you want to replace the salts and minerals that you lose with vomiting and diarrhea. Many thing that Gatorade was the best, but the Centers for Disease Control say Pedialyte is better for adults and children."

Pedialyte has the same balance of salts as is found in the stomach. But Gatorade will work for most people who are otherwise healthy, because the body will get rid of excess salt not needed for replacement. So, when should you seek help?

"If you notice that you're feeling very dizzy, you have high fevers, you have bloody diarrhea, then you should call the doctor and discuss symptoms with him or her," Dr. Femia said.

It's also a good idea, if you have chronic medical problems like diabetes or high blood pressure, to call the doctor sooner than later. Fever drugs like ibuprofen may irritate the stomach even more, so stick with Tylenol.

To learn more about stomach bugs, click here.