A few days ago, after spending over six hours in the hospital, a friend was diagnosed of food poisoning which is likely to have been caused by some street food she ate. I began to think about the fact that she wasn’t the first person I knew to have been diagnosed of this ailment within the past week. These few people only buy street food when it is very necessary such as in exam periods when they are too busy to cook. This caused me to cast my mind back to the past few semesters and I realized that around exam time, a lot of people get food poisoning. Now, I wonder if it is not the same vendors who sell during the semester or do they take less precautions during the exams period when the demand for street food rises.
Food poisoning is an acute gastrointestinal disorder caused by bacteria or their toxic products or by chemical residues in food. (Merriam-Webster, 1828) It can also be defined as an unpleasant illness which is caused by eating contaminated food. This ailment can occur when you eat food that has been poorly prepared, food that was not handled well or eating of cold leftover foods. In most university settings like University of Cape Coast, most students prefer to buy street food during exams period and this increases the demand for street food. This is likely to cause the sellers to pay less attention to hygiene associated with cooking food and may also rush the cooking process thereby producing undercooked meals. Students who buy from these food vendors tend to leave leftover foods for later. Between the time the food is left to the time the food is eaten, many germs have quickly grown on it. In their bid to eat quickly and go back to their books, they sometimes may not heat the leftover foods before eating. This makes them prone to getting food poisoning.
Having food poisoning at such a time in the semester could be frustrating. This stems from the fact that symptoms of food poisoning include dizziness, vomiting, disorientation, diarrhoea, fever and feeling faint. These symptoms can make preparing for and writing exams very difficult and this contributes greatly to some people’s inability to successfully write and pass exams. You can imagine what would happen to a student who has diarrhoea and is vomiting as well due to food poisoning. Such a person is bound to struggle with learning not to talk of writing exams. Some end up writing the exams in the hospital; such a place is not conducive for a sound mind needed in writing an exam. All these add up to the stress one has to go through for getting food poisoning.
Nevertheless, these can be prevented if constant checks are done by the authorities to ensure that foods cooked all over campus are healthy. Students should also remember that their health comes first before all others and as such should pay attention to what they eat despite the fact that there may be no time. Students can also decide to cook and store in the fridge the weekend before exams begins so that they have a store of food instead of buying food from outside. Even if the food is bought from outside, it is advisable to reheat it before consuming it. Leftover foods should also be quickly refrigerated so bacteria and viruses do not have time to start growing.
It is important to note that when one gets food poisoning, the best thing to do is to see a physician. A student suffering from food poisoning with symptoms of consistent vomiting and diarrhoea should allow nature to run its course. During these times, it is best to take in more fluids to replace the ones lost. One should be compliant and take all medications prescribed by the physician as well for better health. Severe food poisoning can kill therefore I urge that at all times, the right measures are put in place to ensure that we don’t get it.
Ewurama Kuntua Saah
University of Cape Coast
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