Food Poisoning in Children: What Parents Should Know
As a parent, you're used to dealing with dirty diapers, vomit in the car, and stomach bugs from daycare and school. But then there’s food poisoning. It may last only a few days, but food poisoning infections are just as unkind to kids as they are to adults. In many cases, the best you can do is offer comfort until the illness passes.
Anyone can get food poisoning, but kids under the age of 5 have an increased risk because their immune systems aren’t sufficiently developed to fight off germs yet. Plus, they don’t have as much stomach acid, which not only breaks down foods but also kills germs.
Just like adults, children pretty much have to ride out the symptoms of food poisoning until they’re gone. However, because kids have smaller bodies, diarrhea and vomiting can take a toll more quickly, so there are some things to look out for.
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What Does Food Poisoning Look Like in Kids?
Food poisoning symptoms in children typically include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea. Most kids won't need any specific medical intervention for common cases of food poisoning. Children with a food poisoning illness should avoid dairy products and drink plenty of fluids.
What Germs Cause Food Poisoning in Children?
Common germs that cause food poisoning in kids include:
- Salmonella - Salmonella infection, or salmonellosis, is a foodborne illness caused by infection with Salmonella bacteria. Most infections are spread to children through contaminated food (usually meat, poultry, eggs, or milk).
- E. Coli (Escherichia Coli) - E. Coli is a common bacteria that is found inside the intestines of humans and other animals. It is also found in the environment and in food. However, certain strains of E. coli are harmful and can cause severe illness in adults and children. Foods that have been involved in E. Coli outbreaks include meat, sprouts, lettuce, salami, and unpasteurized milk.
- Listeria - Listeriosis is a severe infection caused by a bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes. About 1,600 people get listeriosis each year, usually after eating contaminated food. Pregnant women, newborns, and children with compromised immune systems are at higher risk of serious complications if they get infected.
- Campylobacter - Campylobacteriosis is a mild to serious digestive illness caused by the Campylobacter bacteria. Symptoms typically include cramping, diarrhea, belly pain, and fever. The Campylobacter bacteria most often affect babies, teens, and young adults.
- Staphylococcus Aureus - Staphylococcal food poisoning, one of the most common foodborne illnesses in children, is classified as an intoxication rather than an infection. The disease is caused by a bacterial toxin that is present in food rather than from a direct effect of the organisms on the patient. Foods that are commonly tainted with staph include processed meats such as ham and salted pork,custard-filled pastries, potato salad, and ice cream.
- Shigella - Children under the age of 5 are the most likely to get shigellosis; however, people of all ages can get the disease. Many outbreaks of shigella are related to childcare settings and schools, because the germs spread from kids to their family members and others in their community.
- Hepatitis A (HAV) - Most cases of HAV infection in children are acute and self-limited with non-specific symptoms including fever, malaise, anorexia, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain or discomfort, and diarrhea. A child can catch hepatitis A by coming in contact with the blood or stool of a person who has the disease, or eating food that has been contaminated by blood or stools containing the HAV.
- Norovirus - Many cases of norovirus are asymptomatic; however, infected people can still pass the virus to others. A child with a norovirus infection suffering from diarrhea and vomiting can get dehydrated and feel lightheaded or dizzy. Kids with other health problems may have more severe symptoms.
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What Can I Give a Child With Food Poisoning?
In infants and babies with food poisoning, try giving them small amounts of Pedialyte, breast milk, or formula. For older kids, offer them water or other flavored drinks mixed with water. Avoid milk, caffeine, and other sugary or carbonated drinks.
In the first couple of hours after symptoms present, refrain from giving sick children any food. Once their stomach has calmed down, you may offer them bland foods like toast or crackers.
It is important to understand that vomiting and diarrhea are the body’s way of getting rid of germs. Avoid giving your child any medications that stop diarrhea, as doing so can prolong the healing process and potentially lead to severe health complications. Contact your doctor or healthcare provider immediately if you notice symptoms of dehydration accompanying diarrhea.
Get a Free Lawsuit Evaluation With Our Attorneys
The Food Poisoning Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced group of trial attorneys that focuses on the representation of plaintiffs in food poisoning cases. We are handling individual personal injury cases nationwide and currently offering a free consultation to potential clients in food poisoning cases in all 50 states.
If you or someone you know has experienced symptoms of food poisoning, please contact our lawyers immediately for a free consultation. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a lawsuit and our experienced attorneys can help. Phone a lawyer toll-free at (866) 588-0600 or fill out the contact form below to get your free legal advice from a food safety attorney.