Food poisoning: 6 myths we all get wrong

Food poisioning

Food poisioning

It can’t happen to me.

Of course it can. Food poisoning  is one of the most common maladies in the U.S. About one in six of us  get sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages, according to the  CDC. That translates to about 48 million people, most of whom get better  on their own after feeling like crap (pun intended) for a day or two.  But about 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.

If it’s food poisoning, I’ll get sick quickly.

Maybe. Maybe not. Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) will make you sick in about one to six hours. Noroviruses will hit you in about 12 to 48 hours. E. coli  O157:H7, a particularly nasty bug linked to under-cooked beef  (especially burgers), raw fruit and veggies, contaminated water and  non-pasteurized beverages, can take one to eight days to hit.

It’s hot (or cold) enough.

Probably not. That’s because many of us blow off the  so-called “danger zone,” a time when foods set out the welcome sign for  bacteria.


The  danger zone is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Foods  should never be left in the danger zone for more than two hours, or one  hour if the outdoor temperature is about 90 degrees Fahrenheit.


People  also make a huge mistake in foregoing a thermometer, thinking that  things are hot enough or cold enough.


Foods  can get in that danger zone quickly. The rule is if in  doubt, throw it out.

Fruits with rinds are always safe.

Nope. And even injecting your watermelon with vodka isn’t  going to make it safer. That’s because the most serious potential  problem, listeria, could be right on the rind, not in the flesh of the fruit. 


An estimated  1,600 people get slammed each year and 260 die. Watermelons, honeydew  and cantaloupes can harbor listeria bacteria, but actually any fruit can  be risky, said Dr. Yanina Purim, medical director of the emergency  department at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.


“It’s always smart to wash the fruit with an antibacterial product, and even if you peel it, wash it first,” she said.

Water will solve all my woes.

Nope. When you’re vomiting and have diarrhea you get dehydrated,  which means you not only lose water but you lose sugar and salts. So try sipping on drinks that contain electrolytes, as well  as some water and broth. And resist the urge to take an anti-diarrheal  drug, unless you talk to your doctor first. 


Once you keep fluids down,  you’re probably going to be very hungry.

The worst thing  a person can do is have a huge meal, even though they really want one.  Opt for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast.

I don’t need a doctor.

That’s not always the case. Although most cases of food  poisoning are self-limiting, meaning they will resolve on their own, some may be serious, especially for the very young, older folks and  those with other health issues.


If you have blood in your  stool, a fever, you’ve been vomiting repeatedly or had diarrhea more  than a couple of days, go get checked out. Treatment may include antibiotics (depending on the pathogen) and fluid  replacement.