All too many of us are familiar with what happens if you eat a bad hot dog. Just a single bite of contaminated food can have us regretting our choice for days afterward.
As many as one in six people suffer from foodborne diseases each year.
Some foods are more likely to carry germs and bacteria that cause food poisoning than others.
Hot dogs are a particularly common culprit that can lead to potentially severe symptoms.
A hot dog that’s past its prime can harbor all sorts of harmful germs and bacteria. Eating a bad hot dog can give you a nasty case of food poisoning if you’re not careful.
Here, we’re going to discuss just what happens if you eat a bad hot dog and what to do if you notice signs of food poisoning.
How to Tell if a Hot Dog Has Gone Bad
Eating a bad hot dog can wreak havoc on your digestive system. Fortunately, it’s easy to spot a spoiled hot dog with a quick visual inspection.
Color is often one of the most obvious indications of spoiled food. Processed meats such as hot dogs will turn from a healthy-looking pink to a dull gray, green, or brown color.
Smell and texture will also change as a hot dog ages past its prime. Like most meats, hot dogs will build up a slimy sheen on the surface as they spoil due to unchecked bacterial growth.
They will also smell sour, often with strong hints of ammonia.
Tip: Don’t rinse slimy hot dogs in the sink, or you may risk cross-contaminating the area.
How Long Do Hot Dogs Stay Good?
The expiration date on a pack of hot dogs isn’t always enough to tell you whether a batch is good to eat.
Properly stored, unopened hot dogs can last up to two weeks past the sell-by date in your refrigerator.
They can last even longer in the freezer, sometimes as long as one to two months.
Once you open a pack of hot dogs, you should aim to eat them all within a week. Make sure to keep them sealed and refrigerated when not in use.
You should keep meat at or below 40℉ to avoid any accidental contamination.
When in doubt, always inspect hot dogs thoroughly before preparing them.
If you see any signs of potential spoilage, it’s best to play it safe and dispose of the entire batch.
What Happens if You Eat a Bad Hot Dog?
Processed meats such as hot dogs can make people sick when contaminated with harmful bacteria.
Spoiled meat offers the perfect environment where bacteria can thrive and multiply.
Eating that meat may result in either a direct infection, or you could suffer from toxic byproducts released by germs and bacteria.
Some of the most common culprits found on hot dogs include Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, and Salmonella strains.
Eating food contaminated with the Listeria bacteria can lead to food poisoning characterized by fever, diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms.
Most cases are mild, as a healthy immune system can tackle a Listeria infection with no problem.
In older or immunocompromised individuals, though, listeriosis can pose a deadly threat.
Listeria is also dangerous for pregnant women. Bacteria can cross the placental barrier and infect a developing fetus. They are also more likely to cause moderate to severe symptoms in the expecting mother.
Tip: Most experts advise that women avoid processed foods such as deli meat or hot dogs entirely during pregnancy.
Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacterium found on our skin and in our mucous membranes.
While normally benign, a buildup of Staph can produce toxic metabolic waste byproducts.
These toxins lead to poisoning symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting.
Fortunately, Staph food poisoning usually resolves itself quickly. Once the poison is out of your system, you’ll be back to your usual self.
Salmonella is a common cause of food poisoning. You can find it in a wide variety of contaminated meats, including processed goods.
Spoiled hot dogs may provide an ideal breeding ground for dangerous strains of salmonella that can lead to a serious infection.
Salmonella symptoms tend to be the most serious in children and the elderly. In severe or prolonged cases, a victim might require hospitalization.
It’s important to note that salmonella can spread between people and animals.
If you or someone in your household is showing symptoms, you should try to avoid any close contact and maintain a strict cleaning regimen.
Tip: Salmonella commonly spreads through contact with barnyard animals such as chickens. Always wash your hands after handling livestock.
Hot Dog Food Poisoning Symptoms
If you eat a bad hot dog, food poisoning symptoms can occur anywhere from immediately after your meal to two or three days after the fact.
In some cases, you may not see symptoms until a week or two after the initial infection.
If you have a case of toxin-based food poisoning, as with Staphylococcus aureus, you will likely only last for a few hours to a day or two at the longest.
Infection-based food poisoning, on the other hand, tends to last longer. You may still be showing signs of illness for more than a week after symptoms develop.
Hot dog food poisoning as well as other bad food symptoms can range from moderate to severe depending on the type of food poisoning, your age, and your immune health.
Nausea and Vomiting
Food poisoning that involves toxins will often cause nausea and vomiting. This is your body’s way of trying to rid itself of poisons in the stomach.
While it may not feel pleasant, vomiting will often speed up recovery times by removing toxic components from your system.
Abdominal Cramps and Diarrhea
Many bacterial infections cause painful abdominal cramps and persistent diarrhea.
This is the bacterium’s way of spreading, but it can lead to serious symptoms in vulnerable individuals.
It’s important that anyone with prolonged diarrhea get plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
Fever and Weakness
When we get sick, our body will sometimes raise its own temperature to kill off the invading infection.
In cases of food poisoning such as listeriosis and salmonella, you may experience a fever as your body tries to eliminate bacteria in your system.
Dehydration and high body temperatures often lead to headaches during food poisoning infections.
Some toxins can also lead to painful head and body aches, though these are usually less prolonged.
Tip: You can take over-the-counter painkillers to help combat headaches from food poisoning.
Drinking plenty of fluids will also help by rehydrating your system.
Who Is Most At Risk?
Food poisoning can affect people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. However, some people have a higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms and health complications.
Elderly individuals, particularly those over age 65, are more at risk of complications arising from food poisoning.
Young children under the age of five may also have difficulty handling a case of food poisoning, as their immune systems and bodies are still developing.
Pregnant women also have a greater risk of infection than the general public and are more likely to experience food poisoning symptoms after eating a bad hot dog.
Their unborn child is also at risk from any bacteria or toxins able to cross the placental barrier.
What to Do if You Have Food Poisoning
If you think you may have food poisoning, the best thing that you can do for yourself is to stay hydrated.
Symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea can quickly dehydrate you, worsening your condition.
If you have a fever, try to keep cool and drink plenty of electrolyte-rich fluids. If your fever peaks higher than 103℉, you should seek medical help as soon as possible.
You also may want to speak to a doctor if your symptoms persist longer than three days or if they increase in severity.
Conclusion: What Happens if You Eat a Bad Hot Dog?
Processed meats such as hot dogs are a common source of food poisoning.
While cases tend to be mild to moderate for most people, vulnerable individuals may have more serious complications.
The best way to avoid hot dog food poisoning is through proper storage and preparation.
If your hot dogs spoil, it’s important to know how to spot the most common signs and throw out any bad meat.
Vulnerable populations may want to avoid processed hot dogs altogether to reduce their risk of food poisoning.