How to Recognize Food Poisoning from Fish and How to Act

Fish are among the most common foods in the entire world. Almost everyone has enjoyed a good meal of fish. They are diverse and present more variety in taste and texture compared to other meat. The countless species of fish that men consume makes eating fish an even more delightful experience. However, just like any food, fish can also get spoiled. They can also get contaminated and lead to food poisoning.

Food poisoning is a tricky condition. It’s true that fish can cause food poisoning but it is also true that there are many other possible causes for this disease. So, how do you know that your food poisoning is due to the fish you ate? Here’s how to recognize food poisoning from fish and how to act.

Ways of getting food poisoning from fish

There two main ways of getting food poisoning from the fish you eat. These two types of fish poisoning are:
Ciguatera Poisoning. Ciguatera (pronounced as seeg-wha-terra) poisoning happens when you ingest a reef fish that has consumed a certain poisonous food. Reef fish is any fish that lives in warm tropical water. These fish include: snapper, barracuda, mackerel, and grouper. The poison that the reef fish has ingested does not go away even after the fish has been frozen or cooked properly.
Scromboid Poisoning. Scromboid poisoning occurs when histamine builds up in the fish as it gets too warm after it is caught. Histamine is a chemical that acts as an alarm to alert you’re your immune system of an infection in your body. Histamine can cause an allergic reaction once it is released into your body. Eating a fish that has not been properly cooled or chilled after getting caught can lead to scromboid poisoning.

There are also other ways seen as a cause of or way to get fish poisoning.
Pufferfish Poisoning. Pufferfish is one of the most poisonous fish. However, despite it being toxic, pufferfish is considered as a delicacy in some Asian countries like Japan, Korea, and China. Certain internal organs, like the liver, and sometimes the skin are highly poisonous to most animals when eaten.
Diphyllobothriasis. Diphyllobothriasis is an infection from fish tapeworm. Fish tapeworm (Diphyllobothrium latum) is the largest parasite that infects men. And this tapeworm can be contacted when raw or undercooked freshwater fish containing tapeworm cysts is consumed.

Symptoms of food poisoning from eating fish

Most types of food poisoning have the same symptoms. Whatever the cause may be, you will observe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. These are mainly the symptoms of food poisoning. The difference now lies on the gravity of the symptoms, how fast they appear, and on how long they last.

For ciguatera poisoning, the first symptoms are those listed above (nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea). The symptoms can then later include headaches, muscle aches, itching skin, and numbness or tingling sensation. Confusion on temperature may also be observed. You may notice not being able to tell whether something is hot or cold.

Symptoms of scromboid poisoning include flushing of the face, vomiting, nausea, hives, and abdominal pain. The symptoms of scromboid poisoning are similar to the symptoms of an allergic reaction. But this does not mean that you are allergic to the fish. The symptoms may appear 20 to 30 minutes after consuming the infected fish.

Pufferfish poisoning symptoms include numbness or tingling around the mouth, difficulty in swallowing, trouble in coordinating movement, convulsions, twitching, excess saliva, loss of ability to talk, respiratory failure, paralysis that spreads upward, and death. The symptoms of pufferfish poisoning are different from the common symptoms of food poisoning and so some may not consider it as food poisoning. But as food poisoning is a general term for any food-borne illness, pufferfish poisoning falls into the category.

Diphyllobothriasis is quite different from the first two types of food poisoning from fish as well. Most people with diphyllobothriasis do not show any symptoms. However, those who do show symptoms suffer from abdominal discomfort or pain, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetites, and weight loss. The symptoms of diphyllobothriasis are pretty much the same as most cases of food poisoning.

Treating food poisoning from fish

Since there are different cases of food poisoning from fish, there are also different ways to treat food poisoning.

In the case of a ciguatera poisoning, there are no exact treatments for it. There is no medicine to cure ciguatera poisoning. However, your doctor may still prescribe you medications to ease the symptoms of ciguatera poisoning. The symptoms will diminish through time.

For scromboid poisoning, an antihistamine will do the job. Since the problem with scromboid poisoning is the amount of histamine present, you need a medication that will counter this chemical. The antihistamine will block the histamine in your blood.

Pufferfish poisoning is quite dangerous as the fish is highly toxic. First aid for pufferfish poisoning is to induce vomiting if the person is awake and alert and has just eaten the pufferfish within 3 hours. And if vomiting occurs, quickly turn the person on his or her side. If the person becomes paralyzed, artificial respirations may keep the victim alive until proper medical attention is provided. In cases of pufferfish poisoning, the victim should be brought immediately to the hospital.

Treatments for diphyllobothriasis include medications to fight the parasites. These medications are taken orally and usually in a single dose only. Vitamins B3 injections or supplements may be given to treat megaloblastic anemia that can occur with the infection.

Since most cases of food poisoning results to diarrhea and vomiting, dehydration becomes a problem. In order to prevent this from happening, continued intake f water and other fluids should be done. An oral rehydration salts may also be needed to keep your electrolytes in balance.

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