Beyond the days of breastfeeding and formulas are the fun days of introducing your child to the world of flavors in different types of foods. Long before your child is ready to enjoy your regular dinner fare, however, they become susceptible to foodborne illnesses caused by bacteria.
Food poisoning and foodborne illnesses have been around since the beginning of time, but doctors do not always recognize the symptoms of illnesses for what they are. The most common mistake is that they feel the patient has the stomach flu. The American Medical Association (AMA) has launched a program to educate their doctors in recognizing the signs of foodborne illnesses and how to treat them, instead of sending the patient home, as in the past.
Most foodborne illnesses are caused by the E. coli bacteria. Many of the doctors who graduated from medical school years ago had never heard of many of the different types of E. coli, and are unfamiliar with their symptoms. Educating the doctors to recognize and report the instances of foodborne illnesses is what the AMA program is about.
E. coli and most other bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses live harmlessly in our intestines and are beneficial in helping our bodies produce essential compounds like K- and B-complex vitamins. One particular E. coli bacteria is particularly dangerous to young children and the elderly, and is known to cause complications such as bloody diarrhea and kidney failure. It is responsible for approximately 5000 deaths and 300,000 individuals being hospitalized every year.
It isn't just the food we eat that causes illness from this bacteria. There have been an increasing number of reports of outbreaks caused by everything from contaminated drinking water to visiting a petting zoo.
What can you do to protect your family? Learn how to keep the bacteria away from the foods you eat and recognize the signs that indicate medical help is needed.
Wash all fruits and vegetables, even the skins of watermelons and cantaloupes.
Cook meats thoroughly before eating. Use a meat thermometer and cook chicken to 170 degrees Fahrenheit and beef and pork to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sorry rare meat lovers, juicy pink centers can be dangerous - no pink usually means no bacteria.
Do not drink milk or fruit juices that are not pasteurized.
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