Staphylococcal food poisoning is caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. It is commonly found on the normal flora of the skin and in the noses of up to 25% of healthy individuals and animals. It does not usually cause harm unless it is transmitted to food products. Staphylococcus aureus produces different types of toxin, several of which can cause food poisoning. Food is most at danger when kept at room temperature where the bacteria can multiply and produce toxins. However, it is important to note that Staphylococcal toxins are resistant to heat, thus cannot be destroyed by cooking. The presence of toxins cannot usually be determined by simply looking at the food. Even if there may be no signs of spoilage, such as bad smell, it does not necessary denote that no toxins are present.
Causes of Staphylococcal Food Poisoning
The most common cause of staphylococcal food poisoning is eating contaminated foods and cannot be transmitted from one person to another. There are several ways of getting Staphylococcus aureus into the food including:
- Carriers of Staphylococcus handle food without washing their hands
- Growth of Staphylococcus in unpasteurized products
- Eating foods that are made with hand
High-risk Foods for Staphylococcal Food Poisoning
All foods are at risk for causing food poisoning to an individual. However, the following food products are considered at greater risk for causing staphylococcal food poisoning. Specifically, food products that are made by hand and require no cooking are considered high-risk foods, which include:
- Unpasteurized milk and cheese products
- Salty foods, such as ham
- Sliced meat
Signs and Symptoms of Staphylococcal Food Poisoning
Staphylococcal food poisoning is a gastrointestinal illness, thus most of its signs and symptoms are related to the digestive tract. Moreover, Staphylococcal toxins are fast acting, thus its incubation period is generally one to six hours. The illness usually lasts from 24-48 hours. The following are signs and symptoms of Staphylococcal food poisoning:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Severe abdominal cramps
- Mild fever
First Aid Management for Staphylococcal Food Poisoning
Fortunately, most cases of Staphylococcal food poisoning are mild and can be managed at home. The main goal of first aid management includes treating the symptoms and avoiding dehydration. The following are first aid tips to managing staphylococcal food poisoning:
- Take plenty of rest.
- Drink eight to ten glasses of clear fluids, preferably water.
- Every time there is a loose bowel movement, drink at least one cup of liquid.
- Instead of eating three big meals, eat small meals instead.
- Put some salty food in the diet, such as pretzels, soup, and sports drinks.
- Eat foods high in potassium, such as bananas, potatoes without the skin and fruit juices with plenty of water.
- Medications can be given to calm the stomach.
Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice and should not be substituted for formal training. The information given should not be used for self-diagnosis. Seek medical attention when necessary. It is important to recognise potential medical emergencies at all times to avoid complications from developing. To learn more about how to manage Staphylococcal food poisoning, enrol in First Aid Courses and CPR Courses with Red Cross Training.