How to Treat Salmonella

How to treat salmonella – Salmonella is a bacteria group that often leads to foodborne illness, known as salmonellosis. It’s contracted by consuming contaminated foods like raw poultry, eggs, unpasteurized dairy, beef, and occasionally fruits and vegetables.

How to Treat Salmonella
How to Treat Salmonella

Processed foods can also be a source. Handling certain pets, especially birds and reptiles, can transmit the infection.

Salmonella infections are widespread, causing over a million cases annually in the United States. While many recover without treatment, severe cases may require hospitalization.

There are numerous salmonella types, but only around 100 affect humans. Most cause gastrointestinal issues, but some, like Salmonella typhi and Salmonella paratyphi, rare in the U.S., can lead to life-threatening conditions like typhoid and paratyphoid fever. In the U.S., these infections are usually acquired during travel to regions where these diseases are prevalent.

Signs and Symptoms of Salmonella 

Salmonella often leads to gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and/or intestines, causing symptoms similar to the stomach flu. These symptoms typically appear between six hours to six days after exposure to the bacteria, though some people may take weeks to show symptoms. Common signs include:

  • Diarriah
  • Abdominal cramps.
  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Loss of appetite.

Contact your doctor promptly if you experience:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Persistent diarrhoea lasting over three days.
  • Blood in stools.
  • Fever exceeding 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Continuous vomiting and inability to retain liquids.
  • Reduced urine output, dry mouth, and throat (indicating dehydration).
  • Dizziness, especially upon standing.
  • Severe abdominal pain.

Causes and Risk Factors of Salmonella 

How to Treat Salmonella, you will need to know the cause and risk of it. Salmonella resides in the intestinal tracts of humans and animals, exiting the body through faeces. Infection occurs when one touches or consumes something contaminated with salmonella. Common sources include:

  1. Consuming contaminated food, water, or items in contact with animal or human faeces, such as:
  • Undercooked beef, poultry, or fish.
  • Raw eggs or products with uncooked eggs.
  • Raw or unpasteurized dairy.
  • Raw vegetables or fruit.
  1. Consuming food handled by a worker who hasn’t washed their hands properly.
  2. Touching animals or their waste, especially those known to carry salmonella, like lizards, turtles, or baby birds.

Anyone can get salmonella, but those at higher risk of severe infection include:

  • Children under 5.
  • Non-breastfed infants.
  • Adults over 65.
  • Individuals with weakened immune systems (e.g., HIV, sickle cell disease, cancer patients, those undergoing chemotherapy, and taking corticosteroids).
  • People use antacids (which reduce stomach acidity, allowing more bacteria survival).
  • Those on antibiotics (lowering “good” bacteria, increasing vulnerability).
  • Individuals with inflammatory bowel disease (e.g., Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, facilitating salmonella growth).
  • Pet owners, especially of birds and reptiles.

How is Salmonella Diagnosed?

Salmonella symptoms can be similar to those of many other illnesses, so doctors rely on lab tests to diagnose it. The first common test checks a person’s stool sample for the presence of the bacteria, and blood samples may also be taken.

Regarding recovery, most people with salmonella start feeling better within a week, and they typically fully recover. However, it might take a few weeks or months for their bowel function to return to normal.

In more severe cases, salmonella can be life-threatening, especially if proper treatment isn’t initiated early enough.

Duration of Salmonella 

Usually, salmonella is a short-term illness that brings on stomach cramps and diarrhoea for a few days. The symptoms typically stick around for about four to seven days, but in some instances, they can last for several weeks.

However, in more severe cases, the symptoms can be intense, persist for a longer duration, and may even require hospitalization, potentially leading to long-term complications.

Treatment and Medication Options for Salmonella 

The treatment for salmonella depends on factors like your symptoms, age, and overall health. Most cases resolve within a week without specific treatment. The primary concern with food poisoning, including salmonella, is dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhoea. Here are some home treatment tips your doctor might suggest:

  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids like water, diluted fruit juice, sports drinks (for electrolyte replacement), clear broths, and electrolyte replacement drinks (check with your doctor before using).
  • Manage Intake: If keeping food down is difficult, try sipping small amounts of water or sucking on ice chips.
  • Electrolyte Replacement: Consume saltine crackers or pretzels to help replace electrolytes, as sodium is an electrolyte.
  • Small, Frequent Meals: Eat small meals throughout the day.
  • Avoid Antidiarrheal Medicines: Unless recommended by your doctor, avoid antidiarrheal medications, as they may prolong diarrhoea and lead to complications.

If your doctor is concerned about severe dehydration, high fever, or severe abdominal pain, they may recommend hospital treatment with intravenous fluids and monitoring.

Medication Options 

If your immune system is weakened or your symptoms are severe and not improving, your doctor might prescribe antibiotics to treat your salmonella infection. Antibiotics may be recommended for:

  • Severe Illness: Individuals with high fever, severe diarrhoea, or bacteria that has spread to the bloodstream.
  • Specific Age Groups: Adults over 50 with underlying medical conditions (like heart disease), adults 65 and older, infants under 12 months old, and people with compromised immune systems (such as cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or those with HIV/AIDS).

Common antibiotics like ciprofloxacin (Cipro), azithromycin (Zithromax), and ceftriaxone may be prescribed for severe salmonella infections. However, antibiotic-resistant salmonella has become a concern in recent years, with up to 16% of strains resistant to at least one essential antibiotic, causing around 212,500 cases yearly.

About 2% of salmonella is resistant to three or more antibiotics, leading to approximately 20,800 cases annually.

Alternative and Complementary Therapies

Probiotics, live microbes similar to those in our gut, are being explored as a potential complementary or alternative treatment for salmonella. Some studies suggest that certain probiotics may help shorten diarrhoea.

Researchers are still studying how probiotics can treat food poisoning, including salmonella infections. Always consult your doctor before using probiotics or any other treatment for gastrointestinal problems. Given the rising issue of antibiotic-resistant salmonella, alternative treatments like probiotics are gaining importance.

Preventions of Salmonella 

Salmonella infections are mostly caused by eating contaminated food. To lower your risk of getting salmonella, it’s crucial to follow proper food safety practices. The CDC recommends these four rules:

  • Clean: Wash your hands and surfaces, like cutting boards and countertops, frequently. Rinse fruits and vegetables under running water.
  • Separate: Prevent cross-contamination by using a separate cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Keep these items separate from other foods.
  • Cook: Ensure that food reaches the recommended internal temperature to eliminate germs.
  • Chill: Maintain your refrigerator at 40 degrees F or below. Never leave perishable food outside the fridge for more than two hours. Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator or microwave, as leaving it on the counter can lead to rapid bacteria growth.

Also, always wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet or changing diapers. Also, wash your hands after any contact with animals. Following these guidelines can significantly reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.

Complications of Salmonella Infections

Salmonella infections can lead to complications when the bacteria spread beyond the digestive system to other parts of the body, such as the bloodstream, bones, joints, and central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Some potential complications include:

  1. Dehydration: People with a salmonella infection are at risk of losing too much fluid due to vomiting and diarrhoea. Signs of dehydration include:
  • Decreased urine production.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Sunken eyes.
  • Heart fluttering.
  1. Bacteremia: Salmonella can move from the intestines into the bloodstream, leading to infections in other areas of the body, such as:
  • Tissues around the brain and spinal cord (causing meningitis).
  • The lining of the heart or its valves (causing endocarditis).
  • Bones or bone marrow (causing osteomyelitis).
  1. Reactive Arthritis (or Reiter’s Syndrome): A salmonella infection can elevate the risk of developing this inflammatory condition, characterized by:
  • Joint pain, stiffness, swelling, or redness.
  • Painful urination.

Bottom line 

Salmonella infections can lead to serious complications such as dehydration, bacteremia (spread to the bloodstream), and reactive arthritis. These complications can result in severe health issues affecting the joints, heart, and even the central nervous system.

Certain populations, particularly people of colour, may face higher rates of infection, possibly due to education gaps in safe food handling practices and limited access to healthy food options.

It’s important to be aware of these risks and take preventive measures, especially for individuals with weakened immune systems due to underlying health conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and kidney disease.



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