Food Poisoning in the Summer

The backyard barbeque – a summer staple. Imagining the smell of hamburgers on the grill, biting into fresh watermelon and eating creamy potato salad is enough to get anyone’s taste buds going. But whether you’re the grill master or the picnic food enthusiast, the one thing that can ruin any summer outing is a case of food poisoning.

Food poisoning is a common problem for millions of people each year, in both the U.S. and around the world, and is the result of eating or drinking bacteria-contaminated food or water.

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Food Poisoning Symptoms

Symptoms range from mild to severe and commonly include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea (may be bloody)
  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness

In the unfortunate case you have food poisoning, what should you do? Most cases of food poisoning can be treated at home and last only a few days. Things you can do to alleviate symptoms are:

  • Drink water to replenish your body of lost fluids and electrolytes.
  • You could purchase oral rehydration powder from a pharmacy – or make it at home by mixing:
    • ½ teaspoon of salt
    • ½ teaspoon of baking soda
    • 4 tablespoons of sugar
    • 4 ½ cups of water
  • Try eating bland foods that are easy on the stomach, such as saltines, bananas, and rice.
  • Get plenty of rest.

If symptoms last more than a few days or become worse over time, you should contact a doctor. Also, if you are unable to keep down fluids and become dehydrated, you might have to be given fluids intravenously. So before you lay out a picnic blanket or fire up the grill, keep in mind these safety tips for your next summer cook-out:

  • Wash your hands before preparing any food.
  • Clean utensils, cutting boards and other tools after they touch raw meat.
  • Do not leave cold foods (like summer food must-haves potato salad and coleslaw) out of the refrigerator for too long.
  • Cook meat, especially poultry, well enough to kill bacteria.
  • Thoroughly wash raw fruits and vegetables before eating.

About Digestive Disorders

UPMC Digestive Health Care cares for a wide range of gastrointestinal (GI) conditions and diseases, from diagnosis to treatment. Whether your digestive condition is common or complicated, our experts can help. Upon referral from your physician, we coordinate your testing and treatment. If you have a complicated condition, we can refer you to one of UPMC’s digestive health centers of excellence. Find a GI doctor near you.