Food Safety and Seniors: What Are the Signs of Food Poisoning?

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Food Safety and Seniors: What Are the Signs of Food Poisoning?



Changes as you age put the elderly at a higher risk of foodborne illnesses. For one, chronic conditions like cancer or diabetes can lower the immune system's function. Food takes longer to pass through the intestines, which means it's in the body longer and more likely for bacteria to grow and spread. The kidneys and liver also don't always filter bacteria and toxins as effectively.

There are other reasons it's more common. Seniors may not find it as easy to read the expiration dates on packaging. Their taste buds and ability to smell diminish with age, so determining if a food is spoiled by taste or smell isn't as easy. An unfinished meal may be packaged up and eaten at a later time without properly reheating it.

How Common Are These Cases in Seniors?

In 2013, hospitals and medical clinics diagnosed more than 2,300 cases of food poisoning in seniors. In many cases, seniors had to be hospitalized during their recovery. Listeria was one of the foodborne illnesses that led to the highest percentage of hospitalizations.

Common Foodborne Illnesses and Their Symptoms

E. coli, listeria, and salmonella are probably the three foodborne illnesses that you're most familiar with. There are others. Take a closer look at each.

  • Campylobacter – One of the leading types of food poisoning is the bacteria Campylobacter. It's found in milk, poultry, red meat, and water. Diarrhea, stomach cramps, and vomiting are common symptoms.
  • Cryptosporidium – While other foodborne illnesses are bacterial in nature, cryptosporidium is a parasite. You get it by drinking infected water. The main symptom is diarrhea.
  • E. coli – E. coli is usually linked to produce like leafy greens and ground meats. Depending on the type of E. coli, diarrhea is a common symptom, but it can lead to respiratory and urinary tract problems.
  • Listeria – Listeria used to be a risk of eating deli meats and frankfurters, but it's found now in certain cheeses, dairy products, and produce. Symptoms include diarrhea and fever and can weeks to appear.
  • Salmonella – Many cases of salmonella occur from eating undercooked poultry or seafood or ingesting foods that are contaminated. Abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and fever don't tend to last more than a week.
  • Shigella – Shigellosis is a bacterial infection. If the person preparing your parent's meal is infected and didn't wash hands after going to the bathroom, it's possible to spread it that way. Drinking river or lake water is another way. Diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps are common symptoms.
  • Yersinia – Yersiniosis occurs when a person eats undercooked pork. Typically, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fever appear within 7 days of eating the pork and take up to 3 weeks to go away.

Hire home care to prepare your parents' meals and make sure outdated or spoiled foods are removed. Caregivers can also keep updated on food recalls and make sure items are dealt with properly. Call a

If you or an aging loved one are considering homecare in Rolesville, CO, please contact the caring staff at SYNERGY HomeCare West Denver. Call today: (720) 263-6060.

Shanna Tourtlotte

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