Food poisoning includes any kind of illness caused by ingesting food, whether the cause is the food itself or a toxin or pathogenic agent contained in the food. The good news is that the body is highly vigilant, and in most cases of food borne illness it responds swiftly and drastically to get rid of the toxins. The bad news is that its principal methods for doing this are diarrhea and vomiting. These work very well, but they can be pretty unpleasant. Both diarrhea and vomiting tend to expel a lot of fluid, and raise the risk of dehydration.
Dehydration happens when your body is losing fluids faster than you can replace them. When you're in the midst of a food poisoning attack, you may not be able to drink replacement fluids, or even if you drink them, you may be unable to keep them down. Dehydration is a serious medical condition. Significant loss of fluids undermines your body's ability regulate its internal temperature and maintain an adequate volume of blood. If blood volume is reduced, the body is unable to carry food and oxygen to all the tissues.
If dehydration is not treated promptly, it can lead to drops in blood pressure, seizures, delirium, and loss of consciousness.
Here are some symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration:
- Dry mouth, and a sticky sensation in the mouth
- Lack of tears
- Decreased output of urine
- Urine is dark yellow
- In children, irritability, decreased activity, and sometimes sleepiness
- Lightheadedness or dizziness,
If you or a loved one suffers an attack of food poisoning, and you see any of these symptoms, you should suspect dehydration. You should provide fluids, especially water, to replace the fluids being lost. You should also seek prompt medical attention to evaluate the person's condition.
Young children, because of their smaller size and smaller fluid volume, may lose a critical fraction of their fluid volume very quickly. They should be monitored very closely in any episode of vomiting or diarrhea. The elderly, and anyone with a serious medical condition are also more vulnerable to complications of dehydration. For anyone in these categories, if you suspect dehydration you should immediately contact your health care provider.
If you or a loved one has suffered serious injury from dehydration, and you believe that food poisoning led to the dehydration, you may have a legal claim against those responsible for the food poisoning. As soon as you are able, you should consult an attorney who is experienced in food poisoning claims, for evaluation of your case.