How can I avoid food poisoning?

Q: How can I avoid food poisoning now that I'm pregnant?

A: In addition to the usual discomfort one experiences with food poisoning, it can be particularly harmful to an unborn baby. Pregnant women may have relatively mild symptoms (fever and aches) and make a quick recovery, or they may transfer the infection to their unborn child, causing serious health risks or, rarely, even miscarriage or stillbirth. Luckily, being smart about food safety can minimize your risk of food poisoning and keep you and your baby healthy: - Don't buy any food past its "sell by" date or with damaged packaging. - Avoid unpasteurized milk and foods made from it. - Keep meat and dairy refrigerated at or below 40 degrees F. - Make sure your hands are clean before handling food. - Wash raw vegetables. - Marinate and thaw food in the fridge, not on the counter. - Don't serve raw eggs or foods that contain them. If you must make Caesar salad dressing, for example, use pasteurized eggs or an egg substitute in place of fresh eggs. - Cook meats and seafood thoroughly. Make sure the cooked meat is gray or brown throughout (not pink), juices run clear, and the inside is hot. - Make sure food is served as soon as possible after preparation. - Cook leftover or ready-to-eat foods (such as hot dogs) until steaming hot. Hot dogs should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Refrigeration doesn't prevent the bacteria from multiplying. - Although the risk associated with deli foods is low, pregnant women should avoid deli meats. If you develop a flu-like illness with fever and chills, possibly accompanied by nausea or diarrhea, abdominal cramps, or dehydration, you may be experiencing the early symptoms of food poisoning. Severe cases can include an unusually painful headache and stiff neck. Contact your doctor if you develop any of these symptoms. If a pregnant woman is diagnosed and treated promptly with antibiotics, miscarriage and stillbirth can often be prevented.

Copyright 2009

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