Koreans, especially those living in Jeju, are blessed with seafood – the variety and the freshness is amazing.
Unfortunately though, in weather where temperatures are soaring over 30 degrees (Celsius, naturally) there seems to be an increase of patients with cramps and diarrhea. Though not my ‘specialty’ I thought it would be helpful to discuss this ‘phenomenon’ of cramps happening in this weather – food poisoning.
In medicine, we often use the term ‘syndrome.’ It is not a disease, but an entity of symptoms that are similar and can be categorized as such. Food poisoning is a series of symptoms that come from ingesting unsafe food. In a doctor’s office, the term ‘gastroenteritis’ (anything that has a ‘~itis’ on the end has something to do with inflammation) overlaps with food poisoning and frankly it is quite difficult to totally separate one from the other.
The reasons for food poisoning can be viral, bacterial, parasitical or due to toxic agents. Due to the various reasons for food poisoning, there can be different symptoms. Common symptoms are diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, cramping pain, fever, loss of appetite and in serious cases, jaundice (yellowing of the face and the sclera of your eye) and bloody stool that can affect you in a time period of half an hour to a few days.
Most food poisoning is self-limited. Because of the fluid loss due to vomiting and diarrhea, you need to hydrate yourself sufficiently, eat rather blandly and be aware of the food that you put into your mouth. (So, no Mexican food.) There are symptoms (mentioned in ‘A, B, C, D’ cases below) where you should definitely go to the doctor and get a thorough check up.
A: Abdominal pain and diarrhea lasting more than 3 days B: Blood in the stool, or a pitch black color stool C: Continued nausea and vomiting that prevents you from eating D: Dehydration symptoms (light-headedness, and thirst)
If you are a mountain climber and just happened to eat an innocent looking mushroom, or you had a chance to try the Korean cuisine blowfish sashimi, (and afterwards developed symptoms) it is an emergency. Usually, simply just fully cooking the food will eliminate many if not most of the pathogens in the food. So, eat healthy, stay out of trouble, and enjoy the last moments of this hot/humid but definitely enjoyable summer!
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