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When a patient’s immune system is weak from cancer and treatment, the body has fewer defenses against bacteria, parasites, or viruses that can be found in food. Germs in food and beverages can sometimes lead to an illness or infection of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This type of sickness is called a foodborne illness or food poisoning.
Common symptoms of foodborne illness are similar to stomach virus symptoms. They include:
Most people start feeling sick within the first couple days after infection. However, foodborne illness symptoms can develop within a few hours or take up to a week or more before appearing.
If foodborne illness is suspected:
Basic steps can help prevent illnesses from food. These are especially important if a patient’s immune system is weak. The care team can help families know other food safety steps to take.
Ways to prevent illness from foods include:
Taking care to handle food properly is key to reducing the chance of foodborne illness. Foodborne illness often starts when foods are not washed or stored correctly.
Bacteria from uncooked foods can easily transfer to other foods and surfaces. Simple ways to improve kitchen safety include:
Cooking food to safe temperatures, especially meat and poultry, reduces the chance of food-related illness.
When cooking in the microwave, prevent cold spots where bacteria can survive.
Preventing foodborne illness begins at the grocery store.
Eating out can present added challenges because less is known about the way food is stored and prepared. Families can take steps to help reduce risk of food-related illness in restaurants.
Reviewed: June 2018