In warm-weather months, who doesn’t love to get outside for picnics, backyard gatherings, and of course delicious foods? But high temperatures raise your chance of getting sick from things you eat. Learn how to handle food properly to avoid the misery of food poisoning.
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It can be hard to keep foods safe to eat during warmer weather. If you’re eating or preparing foods outside, you may have trouble finding places to wash your hands, keep foods cold, or cook at the proper temperature—all of which are important to prevent foodborne illness.
“Food poisoning occurs if the foods you eat contain certainmicrobes or the toxins they produce,” says Dr. Alison O’Brien, a food safety expert at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Maryland. “You can get sick directly from swallowing the toxins. Or you can get sick if the microbes get into your gut and start to multiply.”
Each year, about 1 in 6 Americans get sick from tainted foods. Most foodborne illnesses arise suddenly and last only a short time. But food poisoning sometimes leads to more serious problems. Foodborne diseases kill about 3,000 people nationwide each year. Infants, older people, and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk.
Many people know the symptoms of food poisoning: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, or chills. The sickness may be mild or severe. It may last from a few hours to several days. The symptoms and length of illness depend on the type of disease-causing microbe or toxin you’ve swallowed.
The leading cause of foodborne disease outbreaks in the U.S. is norovirus. This highly contagious virus sickens more than 20 million people nationwide each year, leading to vomiting and diarrhea. Norovirus outbreaks can occur anywhere people gather or food is served.