By now you’ve likely heard about the warning from the Centers for Disease Control to avoid eating romaine lettuce because of an E. coli outbreak. Given that tomorrow is the biggest eating day of the year, here are the three things you need to know to keep yourself and your family safe.
- Really, don’t eat it. Usually we are all about not wasting food. But this outbreak is no joke. Illnesses have been reported in 11 states, and Canada is also affected. This is not the moment to be blasé. If you have a bag in your fridge, toss it. Washing it won’t help. Stop reading and go throw it away, we’ll wait.
- How do you know if you have it? Symptoms of E. coli infection can show up as quickly as one day after exposure or up to more than a week later (it’s typically three or four days after infection). Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, tenderness or other pain, or nausea and/or vomiting. If you think you may have it, see your doc. Antibiotics and anti-diarrheal medications are not recommended, according to the Mayo Clinic. Antibiotics can cause complications, and anti-diarrheal meds will slow down your digestion, so it will take longer for the infection to clear. Instead, drink lots of clear liquids (avoiding alcohol and caffeine), get plenty of rest and, when you’re ready, introduce bland, low-fiber foods gradually, such as plain crackers, toast, or rice.
- Eat something else instead. We’ve seen a lot of “avoid romaine, eat kale instead” advice. And that’s fine—but if you prefer a lighter leaf, try butter lettuce, green leaf or, if you don’t mind a little bit of bitter flavor, endive.
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