With all the sun and nice weather, people all around the Washington D.C. area are starting to take their meals outside.

Whether it’s eating dinner together on the back patio or hosting a picnic by the lake with coworkers, eating outside is a great change of pace. However, eating outside does present its own set of health challenges.

During the summer, our urgent care centers see lots of patients who’re suffering from food poisoning that occurred at an outdoor event. When you eat outside it’s harder to keep foods heated and cooled to proper temperatures, which creates the perfect environment for food poisoning.

If you don’t want to end up visiting one of our D.C. area urgent care centers this summer, keep reading to learn the signs of food poisoning, as well as some easy tips for preventing it.

What Is Food Poisoning?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, is illness caused by eating contaminated food. Infectious organisms — including bacteria, viruses and parasites — or their toxins are the most common causes of food poisoning.”

How Does Food Get Contaminated?

Food can become contaminated at nearly any stage of the preparation, packaging, and handling process. In some cases, contamination occurs when food comes into infectious organisms where it’s grown or processed. In other cases, food is contaminated through incorrect cooking or handling at home. A common example of this is food at a picnic that’s left out in the direct sun too long. It gets warm, allowing organisms to grow, and then you eat it, setting the stage for food poisoning.

Signs Of Food Poisoning

In most cases, the symptoms of food poisoning manifest themselves very quickly. Symptoms vary but often include:

If you experience any of the following severe symptoms, be sure to visit our urgent care center immediately so you can receive medical help:

Although food poisoning is a very common health issue, especially during the summer, it should never be taken lightly. Pay attention to your symptoms and seek care at our urgent care centers if you feel like things are getting worse or over the counter remedies aren’t working.