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While You're Pregnant - What Is Foodborne Illness?

 

Food Safety for Moms-To-BeLearn about foodborne illness and how to prevent certain foodborne risks during your pregnancy.

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What Is Foodborne Illness?
| Listeria | Methylmercury | Toxoplasma

QuestionsYou might have heard about foodborne illness outbreaks in the news, for example, caused by E. coli O157:H7 or Listeria. Often referred to as "food poisoning," it's a sickness that occurs when people eat or drink harmful microorganisms (bacteria, parasites, viruses) or chemical contaminants found in some foods or drinking water.


"Why should I be concerned about foodborne illness?"
You are at particularly high risk for foodborne illness because your immune system is weakened during pregnancy. This is a natural condition, which helps you and your baby get along with each other. However, this weakness also makes it harder for your body to fight off harmful foodborne microorganisms. Your unborn baby is also at high risk because the baby's immune system is not developed enough to fight off harmful foodborne microorganisms.


"What are the symptoms of foodborne illness?"
Symptoms vary, but in general, a person might get sick to their stomach, vomit, or have diarrhea. Sometimes foodborne illness is confused with the flu because the symptoms can be flu like with a fever, headache, and body aches.


"How soon can foodborne illness symptoms appear?"
Eating a contaminated food will usually cause illness in one-to-three days, but sickness can also occur as soon as 20 minutes after ingestion... or as long as six weeks later. Exposure to some metals, such as methylmercury, may take months before any effects are seen because the mercury levels in the body may take time to build up.


"What should I do if I experience symptoms of foodborne illness?"
Check with your doctor or health-care provider immediately. And, if you become ill after eating out, also call your local health department, so the department can investigate to see if there's a serious foodborne illness outbreak in the area.


"How serious can foodborne illness be for me?"
Foodborne illness during pregnancy can cause serious health problems, miscarriage, premature delivery, or even death of the mother. Different microorganisms or chemical contaminants can affect the mother and fetus or newborn in a variety of ways.

For example, sometimes foodborne illness can make the mother sick, leaving her exhausted and dehydrated. Other times the symptoms are absent or so mild that the mother doesn't even know that she's been infected, but she's still passing the infection to her unborn child - who may then experience serious effects from the illness.


"How can foodborne illness affect my baby?"
Harmful foodborne microorganisms or some metals in food can cross the placenta and infect the developing fetus. As a result, the infected fetus or newborn can experience a wide range of health problems - or even death. But, read on... this Web site shows you how to protect your baby.


"What's the general treatment for foodborne illness?"
A doctor may perform a blood test. Maintaining hydration is an important part of the treatment, especially if the mother is vomiting or has diarrhea. Antibiotics that are safe to use during pregnancy may be prescribed by a doctor to get rid of the mother's infection. In most cases, the antibiotics also prevent infection of the fetus or newborn. Antibiotics may also be given to babies who are born with foodborne illness.


"How can I prevent foodborne illness?"
Preventing foodborne illness is really quite easy. In fact, you and your whole family should continue good food safety practices even after the baby is born!

Start with these 4 Simple Steps:

Clean
>Step 1
CLEAN
Wash hands and
surfaces often.

Separate
Step 2
SEPARATE
Separate, don't cross-
contaminate.

Cook
Step 3
COOK
Cook to proper
temperatures.

Chill
Step 4
CHILL
Refrigerate
promptly.


Note: See your doctor or health-care provider if you have questions about foodborne illness.


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