Teenagers and food poisoning

Food poisoning is one of those illnesses which does not discriminate in terms of age, gender and background. In other words, anyone can get food poisoning.

This also includes teenagers.

You develop food poisoning if you eat something which is contaminated by a virus or bacteria, for example salmonella. These bacteria enter the digestive system and once there, they invade the lining of the intestine. They release toxins which attack cells within this lining which results in the infection known as food poisoning.

Food poisoning can develop whether you eat out at a restaurant, a meal from a fast food outlet or at home. It usually occurs due to inadequate preparation, cooking or storing of food.

Teenagers may be particularly susceptible as they enjoy food from fast food outlets which can be a source of food poisoning. Another problem with this is that if a case of food poisoning occurs via a fast food outlet then it has the ability to infect a large group of people quickly and easily.

Causes of food poisoning in teenagers

It occurs from eating food that has been infected with bacteria such as:

Food poisoning is also caused by viruses such as norovirus and parasites, e.g. toxoplasma. Plus there are certain toxins such as those found in wild mushrooms or shellfish which also cause food poisoning.

Symptoms of food poisoning in teenagers

If you get food poisoning then you will certainly know about it! The symptoms often develop within hours although in some cases they can take days to appear.

The most obvious symptoms are vomiting and diarrhoea which are the body’s way of expelling contaminated food. These are accompanied by other symptoms which include:

  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Abdominal cramps/pains
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue

Anyone who is considered a high risk for food poisoning such as young children and the elderly will experience these symptoms to a far greater extent.

Diagnosing food poisoning in teenagers

Your GP will make a diagnosis after asking you questions about your medical history; the types of foods you have eaten; if you have eaten food from a café, restaurant or fast food outlet; if you have recently been abroad or if you are suffering from a current medical condition.

He or she will examine you and may refer you for tests, e.g. blood and urine. You may also be asked to provide a stool sample.

A stool sample is basically, a sample of your faeces which is sent to a laboratory for further investigation. The lab will examine this under a microscope to check for signs of a bacteria, virus or parasite and what type.

This information will help your GP with his/her diagnosis and to decide upon your treatment.

Treatment for food poisoning in teenagers

As with any case of food poisoning the important thing is re-hydration. Food poisoning causes vomiting and diarrhoea and this leads to fluid depletion which can be dangerous.

Essential minerals, sugars etc are lost which are vital for the everyday functioning of the body. These are known as ‘electrolytes’.

So it is important to replace these along with the lost fluids. This means drinking plenty of liquids such as water and adding to them an ‘oral re-hydration powder’.

This powder contains electrolytes which can be dissolved in water. They are available as small packets or sachets from a local chemist and do not usually require a prescription.

Another option is sports drinks which often contain electrolytes.

Get plenty of rest during this time. You may not feel like eating but as soon as your symptoms have eased it is important to do so. You need to replace vitamins and other essential nutrients lost as a result of your illness.

Avoid fatty, sugary foods. Choose carbohydrates such as toast, crackers and pasta or rice. Avoid caffeine and alcohol until you are fully recovered.

Recovery from food poisoning usually takes around 48 hours but this varies according to the individual. The more serious your food poisoning the longer your recovery will take.

If your food poisoning was caused by food purchased from a fast food outlet then contact your local environmental health department. Alternatively, mention it to your GP who has a legal obligation to report this.

What complications are there?

The main complication is dehydration which occurs when the body has lost an excessive amount of fluid. This is a greater risk for babies, children and the elderly; however it can be dangerous for anyone.

Severe dehydration requires admittance to hospital. This will involve being given fluids via an intravenous drip and medication if appropriate. Your condition will be carefully monitored during this time.

For more information visit our complications of food poisoning section.

Food Poisoning Guide

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