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The Elderly and Food Poisoning Health Complications

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 13 Jan 2011 | comments*Discuss
Food Poisoning Elderly People Health

Food poisoning can happen at any age but elderly people are more at risk because of associated health complications.

Why Elderly People are Susceptible to Food Poisoning

Medication such as antibiotics taken by elderly people also increases the risk of food poisoning. People who have long term chronic illnesses and health problems are also more susceptible and a number of health conditions can increase food poisoning susceptibility such as diabetes.

How Food Poisoning is Contracted

There are a few ways that food poisoning can occur, one of the most common is by consuming food that is past its use by date. Older people on a budget often buy food that is close to it's use by date in order to save money. Listeria is a common infection that is caused by eating out of date food, and people with weakened immune systems can be more susceptible to this infection. There has been an increase in people over the age of 60 who have contracted Listeria due to eating out of date food products.

Health Complications of Food Poisoning in the Elderly

Elderly people who are afflicted by food poisoning will suffer much more severe symptoms than younger people. Dehydration can become a serious in the elderly and can lead to decreased blood pressure. This can then affect the blood supply to vital organs such as the kidneys. A worst case impact of dehydration would be kidney failure that could prove to be fatal. It is very important that fluids are replaced as soon as possible if dehydration does occur.

Medication and Food Poisoning

Another danger of food poisoning in the elderly is the effect the illness can have on medication. People who are taking medication, for example for diabetes, can find that the medication effectiveness will be reduced due to the food poisoning. Diarrhoea and vomiting are normal symptoms of food poisoning but the symptoms can reduce the medication absorption into the body. Elderly people can find that medication they take will not work as well if they have been afflicted with food poisoning.

Common Health Complications Caused by Food Poisoning

There is a wide variety of health complications that can arise as a result of food poisoning. Health complications can include kidney failure, irritable bowel syndrome and Anaemia. Other health complications can include lactose intolerance, reactive arthritis, pericarditis and haemolytic uraemic syndrome.

Reducing the Risk of Food Poisoning

There are a number of precautions that should be taken to reduce the risk of food poisoning. These should include:

  • Do not eat food products that are past their sell by or use by dates
  • Always make sure food is stored in refrigerators set at the right temperature
  • Follow cooking instructions carefully
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked meat products or eggs
  • Always wash hands and work surfaces that have been used to prepare meat, seafood and eggs
  • Always wash raw vegetables thoroughly; especially vegetable that are not going to be cooked
  • Ensure that frozen foods are completely thawed before cooking and never refreeze thawed foods
  • Never eat undercooked foods in restaurants, always send undercooked food back to be cooked completely

Food poisoning in the elderly can have very serious health complications and consequences, and severe cases can actually be fatal. Elderly people who do contract food poisoning should be treated by a doctor as soon as symptoms occur to ensure dehydration does not become severe.

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