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How to avoid foodborne illnesses this holiday season

Among the bounty of foods that families will gather around this holiday season exist a variety of germs and illnesses that can put a damper on the festivities. While the most common symptoms of foodborne illnesses are widely known as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever, more serious symptoms such as headaches, liver and kidney failure along with paralysis may manifest from the chemicals or germs from within the food. Listeria, E. coli and Salmonella are common bacterial illnesses that are associated with some of the most significant illnesses.

Symptoms of a foodborne illness can appear within as little as an hour. If toxins are produced by the bacteria within food, a person will feel sick much faster than if the germs produce toxins within or injure the lining of the bowels.  However, most foodborne illnesses are self-limited and simply need to run their course with good supportive care.

To avoid having an unexpected illness this holiday season, here are four, easy-to-follow tips from the USDA’s Be Food Safe campaign:


  • Thoroughly clean your hands, food prep area and utensils properly before cooking or touching anything. Use warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds on your hands and wash all surfaces that came in contact with raw meat or eggs.


  • Separate utensils used for the raw food and those for the cooked foods. Use two, different colored cutting boards for raw meats and fresh produce.


  • When cooking your meals, use a food thermometer to accurately measure the temperature of your foods.


  • Chill left over food immediately after finishing your meal. Discard any food that has been left at room temperature for longer than two hours.

Check out Five Star Urgent Care Regional Medical Director Dr. LouAnne Ten Kate’s discussion on her latest Bridge Street appearance regarding this topic. As a reminder to the communities we serve, our Big Flats and Jamestown locations will be open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. while Ithaca, Cicero, Fairmount and Fayetteville will be open from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

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