The drawbacks of dining

February 28, 2020

Last summer, I found myself binge-watching Gordon Ramsay’s “Hell’s Kitchen” or “Kitchen Nightmares” all the time. It could be because I really enjoy cooking, or maybe it was the catharsis of him yelling at inadequate people, who knows.

Although it’s hilarious to watch his outbursts, there is an important reason for them: food poisoning. This often occurs when there is an infectious bacteria or virus in your gut because of contaminated food or water. This often happens when meat or fish is undercooked, leaving some infectious bacteria or viruses.

The symptoms of food poisoning vary based on the source of contamination. However, there are a lot of commonalities. General ones include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. In severe cases, you can also have a fever of over 102 degrees Fahrenheit. The onset of these fevers vary from a few hours after ingestion to a few weeks after ingestion.

The impression that people have about food poisoning is that it is not very harmful and doesn’t pose a big threat. This is likely because of how common it is, with over three million cases in the United States per year alone. Although it is true that food poisoning does not escalate to a lethal stage frequently, there are cases where it has escalated to the point of being fatal.

There are a few main causes of death associated with food poisoning, the biggest being dehydration. Vomiting and diarrhea alone are enough to lead to dehydration very quickly. However, when coupled with people not drinking water due to a loss of appetite and abdominal pain, the situation goes from bad to worse. Signs of dehydration include dry mouth, excessive thirst, decreased urine output and headache.

 Although this is much easier said than done in some cases, the only surefire way to combat dehydration is by simply drinking fluids. If this is not possible, then you may be sent to the hospital and hooked up to an IV to replenish fluids.

Another risk factor that can lead to death is a weakened immune system when someone is infected. When someone has a weak immune system, their body is usually not strong enough to fight the invading organisms. Children, the elderly and people with HIV are the major groups of people that have weak immune systems. These groups should be especially careful when deciding which foods to eat. Safer foods are generally fresher, cooked for longer and are refrigerated properly.

Needless to say, there are certainly some complications that can occur with food poisoning that can turn a simple illness into a life-threatening disaster. In these cases, you should seek a doctor immediately. These cases include dehydration, a temperature above 100.4 degrees, bloody vomit or stool or any neurological symptoms such as blurry vision and tingling in the arms.

Thankfully, most cases will resolve themselves within a few days. However, there are some cases of bacterial food poisoning where antibiotics can expedite the recovery process. If symptoms are especially severe, you should visit the doctor and begin treatment as soon as you can. In most cases though, treatment will simply involve replacing the fluids lost from either vomiting or diarrhea. These can be easily replaced through juices and water.

Luckily, I have never had the pleasure of going into one of the restaurants featured on “Kitchen Nightmares,” so I have not caught any infections myself. However, while going out to other restaurants or even cooking for yourself at home, it is essential to check your meal before eating to make sure that it is safe to eat. In many cases, preventing food poisoning in the first place can be as simple as inspecting what you are about to eat. Things to be checking for on your dinner plate are raw meat, eggs, fish and shellfish. Unpasteurized milk and juices can also frequently cause food poisoning.

So as it turns out, Ramsay does indeed have a point when it comes to yelling at people for undercooking their food. By properly checking your meal to see if it is cooked throughout, you can easily prevent food poisoning in the first place. By understanding the complications that can arise and by going to the doctor for any cases, you can make your dining experience just that much better, and protect yourself from the harmful hands of a poor chef.

(Note: These articles are good-faith attempts to be helpful to the Brandeis community and are by no means to be taken as universal. This article does not replace the advice of a medical professional. This article is not written on behalf of the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo) and is not affiliated with BEMCo in any manner.)

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