Thursday, June 6, 2019

How To Prevent Food Poisoning in Children Under 5

Have you ever looked away from your child for a split second when you were preparing dinner to find them licking the raw steak you were getting to cook? Did your stomach turn to mush? Did you freak out so badly, you called 9-1-1, poison control and your Pediatrician all at the same time? If so, you're not alone. If this happens, please don't freak out to the point you think your child is going to be inflicted with a severe foodborne illness and will need to be rushed to the closest Emergency Department, to be put immediately on IV fluids. Yes, it is possible your child under 5 will get a bad case of food poisoning from licking the raw steak, but then again, they may not.

If this happens outside of your Pediatrician's business hours, I want you to call the National Poison Control Center (USA) at 800-222-1222 or 1-416-813-5900 (Canada), because you will reach them quicker than you will your Pediatrician via their office answering service. Always, try to contact your Pediatrician first.

Once you're told little Abigail or Joey will be okay and give you directions on how to proceed, I want you to calm down, hug that little stinker and tell him or her the steak is poo-poo and not to do it again.

True story.

When my oldest son was 3, he ate an entire box of 36 Pepto Bismol chew-able tablets. I freaked out, and I did call 9-1-1, my Pediatrician, and the Poison Control Center all at the same time. Guess who picked up first? I spoke to a lovely woman by the name of Vivian at Poison Control who assured me, he would be fine, have a very calm stomach and will probably poop some dark black stool. (I can't believe I remembered her name; after-all this was 32 years ago).

Here's the deal. Children under the age of 5 are at an increased risk for foodborne illness and related health complications. This is due to their immune system is still developing and they can't fight infections as well as older children and adults.

How To Prevent Food Poisoning in Children Under 5 - food safety super hero

It happens. Little kids love to put everything in their mouths. How many times has your child found a fish stick under the kitchen table you may have either been too lazy to pick up at the time, or overlooked. Once explosive diarrhea erupted you realized something has gone awry.

There are a lot of things we all take for granted, and food safety for kids is one of them. Sure, we all cut up our kids food into smaller bite-sized portions, but there are a few not so obvious things we may overlook unintentionally. Hey, I'm not here to judge, I've been guilty of most of these when my boys were young.
How To Prevent Food Poisoning in Children Under 5 - food safety super hero

Foods to avoid for children under 5

According to the CDC children under the age of 5 should avoid the following foods.

Raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs.

(I used to put raw eggs in my oldest sons milk bottle. How I wish I could smack my younger self). If you feed raw or partially cooked eggs to a child with a compromised immune system (they could be getting a cold), is more likely to be exposed to Salmonella. Salmonella is not life-threatening. If you don't seek medical treatment, the stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting headaches, and fever should go away within a week.

With that said, although eggs are pretty nutritious, they are high in cholesterol. If your family has a history of obesity or high cholesterol, limit their egg consumption now while they're young. Each egg holds about 187 milligrams of cholesterol, which a child under 3 should not have more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day. According to the Food and Drug Administration, they do cause approximately 142,00 cases of salmonella per year.

You should refrigerate eggs as soon as you get home and use them within 3 weeks of the day you purchased them. Anything longer than that. TOSS THEM OUT!

Unpasteurized milk or dairy products.

The only life form that should drink unpasteurized milk is a calf. I'm not going to get started the reasons why I don't feel a young child should drink milk; however, I don't care how earthy crunchy you are, keep your kids away from anything that is unpasteurized!
Unpasteurized milk is raw and it's not for human consumption. Unpasteurized holds harmful bacteria spores such as Salmonella, E. Coli, and Listeria. So, what's the deal between unpasteurized and pasteurized? Pasteurization is a process which kills the harmful bacteria in milk by heating it to a specific temperature for an extended period of time. There is no difference from a nutritional standpoint if the milk is unpasteurized or pasteurized. Read the labels. If it doesn't say "pasteurized" then consider it as raw milk.

Undercooked or raw meat, pork or poultry.

When an animal is slaughtered, there is a possibility the intestines will be nicked and the parasites or harmful microorganisms that live in the animal's digestive tract could leak out and contaminate the other meat that was being processed or packaged.

Ground beef has a higher concentration of microorganisms than other cuts because they grind meat from several different cows to make up each batch. Chickens and pigs have different microorganisms; however, by consuming all three raw, there is more of an occurrence of E. Coli than any other foodborne illness when consuming undercooked or raw poultry, pork, and meat.

How To Prevent Food Poisoning in Children Under 5 - food safety super hero

Undercooked and raw fish.

Some fish contains mercury. Make sure to choose fish that has a low mercury level such as Flounder, Tilapia, Salmon, Pollock, Trout, and Catfish. You may be asking, can I give my child under 5 sushi? Sushi from a Japanese restaurant is kept at a level of coolness that will inhibit the growth of potentially dangerous bacteria, but as a rule of thumb, don't give it to a child under 5. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Raw sprouts.

Sprouts, whether it be alfalfa, broccoli, clover, radish or mung bean have a high concentration of salmonella and E. Coli. The reason for this is the seeds and beans need warm and humid conditions to sprout and grow. These conditions make it an ideal spot for colonies of bacteria spores to grow.


Out of everything I mentioned, honey which seems to be the most harmless is actually the worst one of the bunch. Wait until your child is over the age of 1 before introducing honey into their diet. The reason honey gets such a bad rap is, it can harbor toxic levels of bacterial spores that can cause botulism. See, bees are not cute, regardless how you look at them.

It's always wise to take a walk on the cautious side when you're feeding your child at any age, but specifically under 5 any type of food. Now, I'm not writing this to scare you, but I'm writing it for you to become aware of the potential. It's funny, as parents if our kids come down with a bad case of diarrhea or vomiting we first think they caught a stomach bug from someone or the shopping cart from Target. What we never really think of is, the food we're giving them may be the culprit.
If you have a baby or know someone who does, you will totally want to read How to Prevent Food Poisoning in Babies.

sources: Mayo Clinic, Nutrition.Gov, Food Safety, Healthy Children

Images by Alexander Dummer photography and Pixabay retrieved from Pexels

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