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Food poisoning

food; poisoning; gastro; gastroenteritis; toxin; poison; germs;


What is food poisoning?

There are germs all around us. Most of them are not harmful to us and many of them are good for us.

Sometimes there can be germs in food which can make us very ill.

  • The germs might cause an infection (gastro).
  • Some germs make a toxin (poison).

You might get just a bit ill, but, you could get very sick and need to see the doctor or even go to hospital.


What is it like?

keep going to the toiletIf you have food poisoning then you may:

  • feel pains in your tummy
  • feel sick (nausea) or actually vomit (throw up)
  • have diarrhoea (di-a-ree-a) (runny poo) and have to keep going to the toilet
  • have a fever and be sweating a lot
  • see blood in your poo.

Sometimes the toxin can cause damage in other parts of the body (such as the kidneys) and a person can be very ill or even die.

How do you get it?

Foods from animals, vegetables which haven't been washed properly, raw foods like eggs and meat or fish can all have germs on them or in them which can cause food poisoning if they are not handled properly.

prepare, cook and store food properlyThese are some of the most common bacteria;

  1. Salmonella (sal-mon-ella)
  2. Campylobacter (say cam-pie-low-bak-ter)
  3. E coli (say ee-koh-lye)

To keep away from these bad germs you need to prepare, cook and store foods properly.

How to avoid food poisoning

  1. Always wash your hands before touching food, whether you are preparing it, or going to eat it.
  2. Make sure that everything you use for food is clean, eg. cutlery, kitchen benches, bowls and dishes.
  3. Use a towel to dry your hands in the kitchen, not the tea towel that you use for drying the pots!
  4. Wash fruits and vegetables before eating them.
  5. Only eat foods that are cooked properly, especially chicken or fish. If chicken or fish are pink inside tell an adult (pink salmon or smoked fish or smoked chicken are OK).
    eat only foods that are cooked properly
  6. Look at what you are eating. Does it have mouldy bits? Does it smell right, especially milk? But foods which have germs or poisons in them often smell normal!
  7. Check the ‘use-by' date.
    check the use-by date
  8. Ask an adult to check that you have reheated left-overs properly (they should be hot right through).
  9. Cover up left-overs and put them in the fridge right away.
  10. Don't leave food out on the table or bench top without covering it first.
  11. Wash your hands between preparing different foods like meat and vegetables.
  12. Keep dairy foods in the fridge until you need them - then put them back again, covered.
  13. Wipe up spills in the fridge and help to keep it clean.
  14. Use different chopping boards for meat and vegetables.
  15. Always wash your hands after going to the toilet.

What you can do if you get sick

  • be a detectiveIf you are vomiting and have diarrhoea you can become dehydrated. (Our topic on Dehydration can give you more information about this.) Drink water - even if you only keep sipping it you will be helping your body to keep everything working. Our topic on gastro has lots in it about what to do for vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Be a detective and think about what could you have eaten, did anyone else eat it and are they sick too? Then tell an adult.
  • Don't panic! It isn't pleasant to be feeling sick and spending so much time in the loo but your body is trying to get all that bad stuff out of you.
    feeling sick
  • If you are feeling a bit feverish and light headed then make sure you sip water.
  • If your poo has blood in it then tell an adult - you need to see a doctor quickly.

Dr Kim says

Dr KimWhen the weather is hot it is even more important to be careful how you keep food.

Hot weather can make foods go bad very quickly. Those lovely left-overs that you were looking forward to eating the next day can be very bad for you, unless they have been covered up and put back into the fridge very quickly after you had eaten enough the first time.


wash your hands before you eat!

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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