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It can be an absolute nightmare and heartbreak when one or more of your children gets sick. It’s particularly scary when the sickness is a result of the consumption of contaminated food. Parental guilt can strike, and that’s something most parents can’t quite take in stride.
None of my children ever experienced any kind of foodborne illness (also known commonly as food poisoning) when they were younger. I, on the other hand have, and it is an occurrence that I wouldn’t want to see anyone go through, especially when it comes to my beloved children. The symptoms of foodborne illness are wretched and can ravish a young child’s body. I can only imagine the anguish of witnessing it.
What to Look for if a Foodborne Illness is Suspected
The scenario can look something like this: your child begins to complain of having an upset stomach, followed shortly by severe cramps. These complaints could also be accompanied by a fever, usually around 101 degrees F. Then comes the sprints to the bathroom with diarrhea and/or vomiting (and you can only hope those sprints are successfully achieved). Be aware that the aforementioned symptoms may not occur simultaneously, and any one of them is cause for concern, especially if they seem to come out of nowhere. The symptoms can begin anywhere from as soon as an hour up to one week after eating contaminated food, and can vary according to the type of pathogen. Most importantly, if your child can’t hold liquids down without throwing up or is otherwise showing signs of dehydration, your immediate course of action should be to get him to the hospital for IV treatment to replace fluids and restore his electrolyte balance. Signs of dehydration include:
Treatment for a Suspected Foodborne Illness in Children
With many types of foodborne illnesses, the symptoms usually resolve in a day or two. However, it’s still vital to treat the symptoms when they appear. Children, because they’re smaller, are more susceptible to dehydration, so providing your child with plenty of fluids is essential. Milk, caffeinated drinks, or carbonated drinks are to be avoided. Instead, provide drinks with electrolytes such as Pedialyte or Gatorade. For infants, you can give small amounts of what they normally ingest, either breast milk or formula. Older babies and children can consume water, ice chips, or popsicles.
It’s also helpful if your child:
It’s also important to not give your child anti-diarrheal medication, unless specifically prescribed by your child’s doctor. This type of medication can exacerbate the length of the diarrhea.
Again, most symptoms improve within a day or possibly two; however, an immediate visit to a health care professional or hospital is in order if your child has not significantly improved in 24 hours if he or she has any of the following symptoms:
Prevention Goes a Long Way
Now that the ugly and scary information is concluded, there are steps that every parent or caregiver can practice in the way of being proactive in foodborne illness prevention. Approximately 48 million people contract a foodborne illness each year, and a great number of these are children. It cannot be understated of the importance of consistently and frequently washing your hands before, during, and after handling virtually every type of food product, and ensuring that your children do the same. Following these simple procedures while grocery shopping will also reduce exposure to the pathogens that can unsuspectedly lurk in food:
How You Store and Handle Food is Critical
For optimum and proactive food safety practices, follow the steps recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture:
For comprehensive and complete information regarding all types of foodborne pathogens and their resultant symptoms, please visit the FDA website: www.fda.gov.
By: Kerry Bazany, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)