It’s documented that wearing a mask helps the mask wearer from being exposed to COVID-19. But there are some diseases that are spread by eating or drinking.

While it’s highly recommended that holiday gatherings should be put on hold this year, many are going to be preparing traditional foods in quantity. While our celebrations are going to be different, please take caution for COVID-19 and food poisoning. Tamara Freuman, a registered dietitian, previously discussed some myths of food poisoning.

1. It can’t happen to me. Food poisoning is one of the most common illnesses in the United States. Annually, about 1 in 6 people will get sick eating contaminated foods, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That equals 48 million people; most get better on their own after feeling awful, but about 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.

2. If it’s food poisoning, I’ll get sick quickly. Staph (staphylococcus aureus) will make you sick in about one to two hours. Noroviruses will hit you in about 12 to 48 hours. E.coli O157:H7, an extremely bad bug found in undercooked beef, raw fruit, veggies and contaminated water can take one to eight days.

3. Food poisoning symptoms are always the same. Actually, the symptoms are linked to the germ that has been eaten. The symptoms can be profuse diarrhea with no fever, to diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, fever and even a reactive arthritis.

4. It’s hot (or cold) enough. The danger zone for food is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees. This is the temperature range that bacteria can grow in. Foods shouldn’t be left in the danger zone for more than two hours or one hour if the outdoor temperature is about 90 degrees.

5. Fruits with rinds are always safe. Unfortunately, a serious germ, listeria, can be right on the rind and cause about 1,600 people to get sick each year and 260 to die. So, it’s better to wash the fruit even if you’re going to peel it.

6. It’s the mayo’s fault. The commercial mayo actually wards off some bacteria because of its high acid content, but once potatoes are added there’s the risk of cross contamination usually with Staph aureus, which can grow in the “Danger Zone.”

7. Water will solve all my woes. If you get sick you do lose water, but you also lose sugar and salts. Better to drink a solution with electrolytes, as well as water and broth. If there’s blood in the stools, vomiting is continuous or the sickness is lasting more than a couple of days, call your health care provider — particularly for the young, older adults and those with other health problems.

It’s wise to use a thermometer, particularly to make sure the turkey is done. Undercooked food can spread disease. Keep surfaces clean and everything securely wrapped to avoid cross contamination. Wash your hands, wear your mask and have fun.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

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(1) comment

Wayne D Holt

"It’s documented that wearing a mask helps the mask wearer from being exposed to COVID-19."

Landmark Danish study finds no significant effect for facemask wearers

19 Nov 2020

"The results of the Danmask-19 trial mirror other reviews into influenza-like illnesses. Nine other trials looking at the efficacy of masks (two looking at healthcare workers and seven at community transmission) have found that masks make little or no difference to whether you get influenza or not."

"And now that we have properly rigorous scientific research we can rely on, the evidence shows that wearing masks in the community does not significantly reduce the rates of infection. "

Authors of the above excerpts: Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at the University of Oxford and director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine; Tom Jefferson, senior associate tutor and honorary research fellow at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, University of Oxford

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