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Staph Food Poisoning - Topic Overview

What is staph food poisoning?

Staph food poisoning is a type of food poisoning caused by infection with the Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) bacterium. The bacteria multiply in foods and produce toxins especially if food is kept at room temperature. The toxins may be present in dangerous amounts in foods that have no signs of spoilage, such as a bad smell.

What causes staph food poisoning?

Most people get staph poisoning by eating contaminated food. The most common reason for contamination is that the food has not been kept hot enough [140°F (60°C) or above] or cold enough [40°F (4°C) or below].

Foods that are associated with staph food poisoning include:

  • Meats.
  • Poultry and egg products.
  • Salads such as egg, tuna, chicken, potato, and macaroni.
  • Bakery products such as cream-filled pastries, cream pies, and chocolate eclairs.
  • Sandwich fillings.
  • Milk and dairy products.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of staph food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, retching, stomach cramping, and diarrhea. In more severe cases, dehydration, headache, muscle cramping, and changes in blood pressure and pulse rate may occur.

Symptoms typically come on quickly. How severe they are depends on your susceptibility to the toxin, how much contaminated food you ate, how much of the toxin you ingested, and your general health. The condition is typically over in 2 days. But it is not unusual for complete recovery to take 3 days and sometimes longer in severe cases.

How is staph food poisoning diagnosed?

Staph food poisoning is diagnosed based on a medical history and a physical exam. Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms, your work and home environments, and foods you have recently eaten and whether other people have become ill from eating the same things. A stool culture and blood tests may be done if your symptoms are severe or to rule out other causes.

How is it treated?

You treat staph food poisoning by managing any complications until it passes. Dehydration caused by diarrhea and vomiting is the most common complication. Do not use medicines, including antibiotics and other treatments, unless your doctor recommends them.

To prevent dehydration, take frequent sips of a rehydration drink (such as Pedialyte). Try to drink a cup of water or rehydration drink for each large, loose stool you have. Soda and fruit juices have too much sugar and not enough of the important electrolytes that are lost during diarrhea, and they should not be used to rehydrate.

Try to stay with your usual diet as much as possible. Eating your usual diet will help you to get enough nutrition. Doctors believe that eating a normal diet will also help you feel better faster. But try to avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar. Also avoid spicy foods, alcohol, and coffee for 2 days after all symptoms have disappeared.

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