Health Advice Agnes Oblas

Food poisoning is not fun. Poor personal hygiene of the cook or servers, improper cleaning of preparation, storage areas, and utensils can all cause contamination of raw as well as cooked foods. Many different kinds of bacteria and viruses are responsible for food poisoning. The good news is that a person must ingest a large amount of the offending organism to become ill. That is why taking proper care of our groceries and cooked food prevents the bacteria and viruses already found on raw food from multiplying and that is why proper cooking destroys the organisms while proper storage helps avoid re-contamination.

I was personally reminded of all this a few days ago when I awoke around 2 a.m. feeling a bit nauseous. I continued to sleep, restlessly, until about 4 a.m., when it finally aroused me enough to send me to the bathroom — running. I spent the next two hours experiencing my insides being wrenched out, drenched with sweat from head to toe. It was clear I had eaten something the previous evening that my guts were simply not going to tolerate. By daylight the worst was over (save for continued nausea and profound exhaustion that lasted approximately another 24 hours). I canceled my patients for the day, stayed in bed, slept a lot, and nourished myself with a few packages of instant chicken soup.

The average person will recover from food poisoning within a couple days and the only treatment required during that time is to replace fluids lost through diarrhea and vomiting with clear liquids or broths. Medical attention, however, is called for when symptoms are so severe that dehydration becomes a concern or when the stricken individual is a young child/infant, an elderly or otherwise frail person, or an immune compromised patient. Urgent medical attention is required if the diarrhea becomes bloody, a fever of 101 is present, or if cardio-respiratory or neurologic symptoms develop.

What can you do to prevent food poisoning?

Just as mom always said, you have to wash your hands after you go potty and you have to hope that food handlers do the same. In the kitchen, you have to keep food preparation surfaces and utensils clean between uses and even keep raw meat or poultry separate from other refrigerated foods. In the grocery store buy cold and frozen items last and do not stop on the way home to do other errands.

Your refrigerator’s temperature should be 40 degree, the freezer section should be 0 degrees, and you should eat heated foods immediately or keep them at 140 degrees until ready to eat. No perishable food should be left out more than two hours and no more than one hour when ambient temperatures climb above 90 degrees, which I believe was the cause of my experience recently.

Finally, when in doubt, throw it out. I wish I had written this article a few weeks ago.

• Agnes Oblas is an adult nurse practitioner with a private practice and residence in Ahwatukee Foothills. For questions, or if there is a topic you would like her to address, call (602) 405-6320 or email Her website is

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