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Trichinosis Food Poisoning

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KEY POINTS

  • Trichinosis is an infection caused by a parasite that usually enters the body through food.
  • Dehydration caused by diarrhea and vomiting can be very dangerous, especially for children.
  • Your child needs to drink enough liquid to replace the fluids and minerals he has lost.
  • Treatment may include medicine or IV fluids until your child’s symptoms get better.

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What is trichinosis?

Trichinosis is an infection caused by a parasite called Trichinella. Because the parasite usually enters the body through food, it is also called food poisoning.

Trichinosis is rare in the US, but it is a common infection worldwide.

What is the cause?

The parasite can live in the animal or human intestine. Your child may get infected if:

  • He eats raw or undercooked pork or pork products.
  • He eats undercooked wild game.

What are the symptoms?

The time between when your child eats food containing the parasite and when he first starts having symptoms of the disease is generally 7 to 14 days. However, it’s possible to start having symptoms as soon as a day after your child eats contaminated food. It’s also possible not to have any symptoms. The symptoms may last just a few days or they may last longer, changing over time.

Symptoms during the first week may include:

  • Cramps or tenderness in your child’s belly
  • Generally not feeling well
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

Symptoms during the first month after infection may include:

  • Muscle pain and tenderness
  • Headache
  • High fever that may reach 104°F (40°C) and sweating
  • Redness of your child’s eyes or swelling around his eyes
  • Severe weakness
  • Feeling out of breath or coughing
  • Rash

Symptoms by the second month may include muscle pain, weakness, and a general feeling of poor health. These symptoms may last for several months.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Muscle biopsy, which is the removal of a small sample of muscle tissue for testing

How is it treated?

Most children who have a mild infection get better without treatment.

For more severe illness, your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to kill the parasite. Your provider may also recommend medicine to treat pain and fever.

If your child has a severe infection, he may need to stay at the hospital. Your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe high doses of steroid medicine to help control the symptoms. After 24 to 48 hours of high doses, your child may then need lower doses for several days or weeks at home. Using a steroid for a long time can have serious side effects. Make sure that your child takes the steroid medicine exactly as prescribed. Your child should not take more or less of it than prescribed or take it longer than prescribed. Your child should not stop taking a steroid without your provider's approval. You may have to lower your child’s dosage slowly before stopping it.

How can I take care of my child?

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Make sure that your child takes all medicines exactly as prescribed. If your child stops taking the medicine too soon, the infection may come back. If your child has side effects from the medicine, talk to your provider.

Here are some things you can do to help your child feel better:

  • Rest your child’s stomach and bowel but make sure that he keeps getting fluids. You can try giving your child water, ice chips, Popsicles, or half-strength lemon-lime soft drinks (half water, half soft drink). Avoid liquids that are acidic, like orange juice, or caffeinated, like coffee.
  • If your child has severe diarrhea, his body can lose too much fluid and you can get dehydrated. Dehydration can be very dangerous, especially for children. Your child may also be losing minerals that his body needs to keep working normally. Your healthcare provider may recommend an oral rehydration solution, which is a drink that replaces fluids and minerals. You can buy these products at drug and grocery stores.
  • Your child may want to eat soft, plain foods. Good choices are soda crackers, toast, plain noodles, or rice, cooked cereal, applesauce, and bananas. It’s best for your child to eat slowly and avoid foods that are hard to digest or may irritate the stomach, such as foods with acid (like tomatoes or oranges), spicy or fatty food, meats, and raw vegetables. Your child may be able to go back to his normal diet in a few days.
  • Don’t give your child aspirin, ibuprofen, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) without checking first with your healthcare provider. NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. Check with your healthcare provider before you give any medicine that contains aspirin or salicylates to a child or teen. This includes medicines like baby aspirin, some cold medicines, and Pepto-Bismol. Children and teens who take aspirin are at risk for a serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will get your child’s test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities your child should avoid, and when he can return to normal activities
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I help prevent trichinosis?

These steps can help prevent food poisoning:

  • Wash your hands and clean any dishes or utensils before you prepare, cook, or serve food. Keep kitchen counters and other food preparation surfaces clean. Replace used dishcloths and kitchen towels with clean ones often.
  • Cook food thoroughly, especially pork and wild game meats. Pork should be heated to an internal temperature of at least 160°F (71°C). Freezing meats, even for long periods of time, may not kill all parasites unless an extremely cold temperature is used, such as minus 14°F (minus 26°C) or lower.
  • Thaw frozen meats in the refrigerator or a microwave. Do not let meat stand at room temperature.
  • Refrigerate any food your child will not be eating right away.
  • Make sure that your child washes his hands before preparing food, after going to the bathroom, and after touching animals.
  • When your child travels to places where contamination is more likely, he should eat only cooked food.
  • If you take care of young children, wash your hands often and dispose of diapers carefully so that bacteria can't spread to other surfaces or people.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2016.4 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2016-04-14
Last reviewed: 2015-05-21
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright © 2016 RelayHealth, a division of McKesson Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.
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