How Parents Can Help Prevent Food Poisoning in Children
Posted by Marianne Frederick
Children are among those who are affected in the most serious ways by food poisoning. Young children are small, growing, and usually active. Anything that can dehydrate them or rob their bodies of the nutrients that promote growth and health is not good. One out of six people is affected by food-borne illnesses annually in the U.S. Many people are hospitalized each year and some actually die from food-borne illnesses. There are a variety of disease-causing microbes, or pathogens, which can contaminate foods, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us, so there are many different food-borne infections.
When people say they have had the "stomach flu" or the "24-hour flu," it frequently turns out to have been a food-borne illness. Common symptoms in many food-borne illnesses occur in children (and adults), such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. The microbes causing food-borne illnesses, such as e.coli, for instance, can be transmitted in different ways--through contaminated food or contaminated drinking water, through contaminated swimming water, even from toddler-to-toddler in a daycare facility. There are different kinds of control efforts -- from chlorinating a swimming pool to boiling drinking water, to sanitizing and even closing facilities temporarily where children gather -- that can help curb the effects of food-borne pathogens.
Salmonella is one of the top five pathogens that transmit food-borne illnesses domescially, sending people to the hospital and even causing death. In the past two months, cantaloupes contaminated by Salmonella that were grown in Indiana have made the news. FoodSafety.gov announced the cantaloupe recall from markets throughout the U.S. Salmonella can also spread to humans in different foods of animal origin. The illness it causes, salmonellosis, can involve fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps and can last from 4 to 7 days. Since children are the most likely to get salmonellosis and the rate of diagnosed infections in children under five years old is higher than the rate in all other persons, what can parents do to prevent salmonellosis' severe infections in young children?
- Cook poultry, meat and eggs thoroughly;
- Do not eat (or drink) or give your child raw eggs or unpasteurized milk to drink;
- Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces and utensils after any contact with raw meat, poultry or eggs;
- Be especially careful when preparing food for infants and young children;
- Wash hands immediately after contact with pets, pet feces, or "zoo" animals (reptiles, snakes, birds, chicks, etc.);
- This last one may surprise you (it did me): Do not work with an infant and raw food at the same time! This means especially do not change the diaper of a child while you are working with food! (According to the CDC website, this can and does happen. So please put the food down, wash your hands, tend to your baby, then wash your hands again before you work with food again.
- Wash your hands and your baby's hands frequently.