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Food Poisoning During Pregnancy - Topic Overview

Toxoplasmosis continued...

Toxoplasmosis often has no symptoms, or the symptoms are flu-like. You may have swollen lymph glands or muscle aches and pains that last for a few days to several weeks.

If you:

  • Are planning to become pregnant, consider being tested for Toxoplasma gondii. If the test is positive, it means that you have already been infected at some time in your life and you probably do not have to worry about giving the infection to your future baby (discuss this with your doctor). If the test is negative, take precautions to avoid infection.
  • If you are pregnant, you and your doctor should discuss your chance of getting toxoplasmosis. Your doctor may order a blood sample for testing.

If you are diagnosed with toxoplasmosis during your pregnancy, you will be treated with antibiotics. If further testing shows that your fetus is infected, you will be given antibiotics that are known to reduce the impact of toxoplasmosis on the fetus.

To help prevent toxoplasmosis:

  • Avoid cat feces, in both the home and the garden.
    • If you have a cat and you are either pregnant or planning to become pregnant soon, have someone else clean the cat litter box. If you must clean the box yourself, do it daily. Wear gloves and a face mask, and wash your hands afterward.
    • Make a habit of washing any table or counter surfaces that a cat may have walked across.
    • Consider keeping your cat indoors. A cat who goes outdoors is likely to become infected with Toxoplasma gondii by eating infected birds or rodents. (Eating indoor mice also poses a risk.)
    • When gardening or handling soil, wear gloves and wash your hands afterward.
    • Wash all foods that could have had contact with cat feces, including commercial fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat only well-cooked or previously frozen meat. Avoid dried meats. Sustained high or low temperatures are needed to kill Toxoplasma gondii in meat.
  • Carefully wash your hands and all utensils after preparing raw meat, poultry, seafood, fruits, or vegetables.
  • Avoid untreated drinking water. This is a concern when you are in the wilderness or are traveling to developing countries where drinking water is not treated.

Other food poisoning

Pregnant women may become much more ill from food poisoning than other people, so it is important that you prevent food poisoning in your home by taking precautions when preparing and storing foods. Perishable foods, such as eggs, meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, milk, and milk products, should be treated with extra care.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends the following steps to prevent food poisoning.

  • Shop safely. Bag raw meat, poultry, or fish separately from other food items. Drive home immediately after finishing your shopping so that you can store all foods properly.
  • Prepare foods safely. Wash your hands before and after handling food. Also wash them after using the bathroom or changing diapers. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables by rinsing them well with running water. If possible, use two cutting boards—one for fresh produce and the other for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Otherwise, be sure to wash the cutting board with hot, soapy water between each use. You can also wash your knives and cutting boards in the dishwasher to disinfect them.
  • Store foods safely. Cook, refrigerate, or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and ready-to-eat foods within 2 hours. Make sure your refrigerator is set at 40°F (4°C) or colder.
  • Cook foods safely. Use a clean meat thermometer to determine whether foods are cooked to a safe temperature. Reheat leftovers to at least 165°F (74°C). Do not eat undercooked hamburger, and be aware of the risk of food poisoning from raw fish (including sushi), clams, and oysters.
  • Serve foods safely. Keep cooked hot foods hot [140°F (60°C) or above] and cold foods cold [40°F (4°C) or below].
  • Follow labels on food packaging. Food packaging labels provide information about when to use the food and how to store it. Reading food labels and following safety instructions will reduce your chances of becoming ill with food poisoning.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. If you are not sure whether a food is safe, don't eat it. Reheating food that is contaminated will not make it safe. Don't taste suspicious food. It may smell and look fine but still may not be safe to eat.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 18, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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