Monday, June 8, 2009

Stay Healthy - This Rains

In the months of June, July we await for our favorite season – Rainy Season. This monsoon not only relieves us from scorching heat but also brings along a set of problems and diseases that can result into serious complications if not paid attention.

The rainy season is notorious for bringing with it a host of viral, fungal and food borne illnesses that can range from simple cold, cough, and fever to stomach pain, diarrhea, food poisoning and gastroenteritis.

Foodborne illness generally results from consuming food or drink contaminated with pathogenic/harmful bacteria, viruses or toxins. Foodborne illness can occur from any fresh or processed foods consumed in a range of settings such as homes, restaurants, large catering establishments, schools and institutions. It often produces symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhoea, or fever. The symptoms are often caused by various sources like the unhygienic food, unhygienic surfaces, location or the food handler itself. This usually makes it hard to tell that illness is caused by food or from any other sources. Symptoms can take between a few hours to a few days to develop and may last for a few days, depending on the type of pathogen.Many people have mild symptoms and recover within a few days. However, if symptoms persist for more than 3 days or are very severe one should seek medical advice to the earliest. In many cases the effects of foodborne illness are only mild but in rare cases, foodborne illness can result in long-term health problems and even death. Some people who are extremely vulnerable, no matter what type of pathogen are involved. These include:

Very young children, infants
Pregnant women
The elderly and
People with compromised immune systems.

Your Line of Defense

1. One of the most common sources of infection during rainy season is water. Do not consume tap water directly. One should always drink water after boiling, filtering or by using commercially available reverse osmosis purifiers.

2. Avoid eating uncooked food during this season. If one really wants to have salads then make your salads when you are ready to eat them. Fruits and vegetables cut up and left to stand, lose vitamins and catch up pathogens.

3.When buying eggs, open the carton and inspect each egg for cleanliness. Make sure the eggs have no cracks or thinness in the shells. Eating raw eggs are another risky food and should be avoided at all costs. Similarly select cheese that is fresh and has no unusual mold or discolored spots. Dairy products should be dated and pasteurized.

4. Use healthy hygiene. This means washing your hands and doing it frequently. A good rule of thumb is to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. It's also important to keep the kitchen sink, drain, and counter tops clean and disinfected before any food preparation. Make sure your cutting boards and utensils are cleaned by warm, soapy water. Change dish towels every alternate day. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables in running tap water to remove visible dirt and grime. Rewash apples, pears, or oranges before eating even if you washed them prior to placing them in the fruit bowl. Remove and discard the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage. Because bacteria can grow well on the cut surface of fruit or vegetable.

5. Don't cross-contaminate one food with another.Put cooked meat on a clean plate, rather back on one that held the raw meat. Store raw foods in covered or sealed containers below other ready-to-eat foods inside the refrigerator to prevent food parts and meat juice/veg curries spilling or dripping on to other food. Always cover foods before storage in the refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards to protect them from contamination. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food, and leftovers within 2 hours.

6. Keep cold food cold and hot food hot.

7.Maintain hot cooked food at 140°F or higher.

8. Reheat cooked food to at least 165°F.

9. Never defrost food on the kitchen counter. Use the refrigerator, cold running water, or the microwave oven.

10.Never let food marinate at room temperature—refrigerate it.

11. Avoid eating outside during rains.Avoid roadside stall foods as it might be source of harmful bacteria (Source can be unhygienic food handler,dirty surfaces,uncleaned veggies or utensils).

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