Staph food poisoning is a type of food poisoning caused by infection with the Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) bacterium. The bacteria multiply in foods and produce toxins especially if food is kept at room temperature. The toxins may be present in dangerous amounts in foods that have no signs of spoilage, such as a bad smell.
Most people get staph poisoning by eating contaminated food. The most common reason for contamination is that the food has not been kept hot enough [140 F (60 C) or above] or cold enough [40 F (4 C) or below].
Foods that are associated with staph food poisoning include:
Symptoms of staph food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, retching, stomach cramping, and diarrhea. In more severe cases, dehydration, headache, muscle cramping, and changes in blood pressure and pulse rate may occur.
Symptoms typically come on quickly. How severe they are depends on your susceptibility to the toxin, how much contaminated food you ate, how much of the toxin you ingested, and your general health. The condition is typically over in a few days. But it is not unusual for recovery to take longer in severe cases.
Staph food poisoning is diagnosed based on a medical history and a physical exam. Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms, your work and home environments, and foods you have recently eaten and whether other people have become ill from eating the same things. A stool culture and blood tests may be done if your symptoms are severe or to rule out other causes.
You treat staph food poisoning by managing any complications until it passes. Dehydration caused by diarrhea and vomiting is the most common complication. Do not use medicines, including antibiotics and other treatments, unless your doctor recommends them.
To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of fluids. Choose water and other clear liquids until you feel better. You can take frequent sips of a rehydration drink (such as Pedialyte). Soda, fruit juices, and sports drinks have too much sugar and not enough of the important electrolytes that are lost during diarrhea. These kinds of drinks should not be used to rehydrate.
When you feel like eating again, start with small amounts of food. This will help you to get enough nutrition.
The following steps can help prevent staph food poisoning (adapted from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
It is important to pay particular attention to food preparation and storage during warm months when food is often served outside. Bacteria grow faster in warmer weather, so food can spoil more quickly and possibly cause illness. Do not leave food outdoors for more than 1 hour if the temperature is above 90 F (32 C), and never leave it outdoors for more than 2 hours.
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