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Nutritionist Speaks About Food Poisoning During Pregnancy

By Sreemathy Venkatraman
| Reviewed By Sreemathy Venkatraman

Summer is around the corner, and temperatures are expected to soar; along with the hot summers, there is always the risk of catching stomach flu. In summers, many tend to eat outside and also indulge in fresh juices, popsicles and ice creams galore.

Especially when one is expecting, the cravings can hit any time. Food poisoning- that icky feeling of nausea, feeling queasy, unable to eat or drink without throwing up is very unpleasant. Imagine having these symptoms when one is expecting a baby. Well- it is not a good feeling!

During pregnancy, it is common to have morning sickness. But when one gets food poisoning during this period, it is harder for the body to fight off germs and the additional anxiety about what would happen to the unborn baby makes it a scarier situation. Now let's look at some causes, what to do when one gets it, and simple steps to prevent it.

Sometimes during pregnancy, when the craving hits at odd times, and you tend to order food outside or grab some leftovers from mornings (not stored at the right temperature), the chances are that germs from the food can make you sick.

One may get sick during pregnancy:

  • when the food is not cooked properly or reheated thoroughly
  • when raw foods like meat, cheese, milk are not stored at the right temperature
  • highly perishable foods like milk, paneer, cheese, fish, meat are left out for too long
  • is handled by a food handler who is sick or not following hygienic practices like hand washing
  • using foods even after the "Best before" or "Use By" date

Some symptoms that can be due to food poisoning:

  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Dehydration
  • Low-grade fever, feeling tired and run down

These symptoms might start after ingesting contaminated food after a few hours or after a few days. Check with your doctor promptly as they will give u the right medicines and might find the cause of your illness. Do not self-medicate in these sensitive times when you are carrying your precious baby, as the OTC (over the counter) medicines may cause harmful side effects to your unborn child. Consulting with your doctor may get you the right interventions like some IV fluids if you are dehydrated or a prescription of "safe" medicines and rest and rehydration advice.

It is important to take clear fluids in small frequent quantities like ORS, which is loaded with electrolytes, Tender coconut water, which is naturally rich in electrolytes, sports drink or sip on some water or even suck on ice chips if one is not able to keep fluids down. Do not drink large quantities as it would be hard to tolerate, so drinking fluids in small quantities like 50-75ml every half hour or so might help tolerate it better.

How Do We Prevent Food Poisoning?

Food spoilage is common with an increase in temperatures.

  • Beware that when you order Italian or from your favourite pizza joint, the cheese is stored at the right temperature, and they follow the right protocols for storing and preparing food.
  • Moulds from vegetables, bread are only seen after a few days, but the fungal growth may have started soon after the expiry date- so never use bakery products after the expiry date or use by date thinking it looks unspoilt- Strictly follow- "WHEN IN DOUBT- THROW IT OUT". No one likes to waste food, so finish the food item before expiry and only buy in small quantities that can be used promptly.
  • Do not buy highly perishable items in large quantities just because they are on Sale or "Buy one Get one FREE Deal". Wasting food should never be an option.
  • To thaw meat or fish, always thaw to the right time period and cook promptly and do not leave it at room temperature for long periods of time as there is a high risk of contamination with germs, especially with animal food.
  • Always use a separate cutting tray- one for vegetables and fruits and one for animal foods, as the cross-contamination is high when you use the same one. Or you can colour code the same cutting tray and use one side for animal food and one side while cutting plant foods.

On A Final Note...

Remember to always wash your hands with soap and water before cooking and disinfect your kitchen surfaces used to cook with clean water and the right soap liquid. Good luck with your baby! It is better to stay safe and follow clean cooking and right storage practices and ordering from a food joint that follows food safety protocols.

Sreemathy Venkatraman19+ years’ experience in Clinical Dietetics
Chief Clinical Dietitian
Sreemathy Venkatraman
Story first published: Tuesday, March 16, 2021, 11:42 [IST]