Iowa Poison Control Center
24 Hours / 7 Days a Week 1.800.222.1222

Prevention For Seniors

Why are seniors at risk?

As we age, our immune system function decreases. Inflammation of the stomach and a decrease in stomach acid occurs. These factors increase the risk of infections caused by bacteria living on food. Seniors have decreased appetites and are usually cooking for themselves and/or their spouses. This means there is more food leftovers to be stored in the refrigerator, thus increasing risk of bacterial growth.

Symptoms of Food Borne Illness

Common symptoms of food borne illness include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, fever, headache, vomiting and exhaustion.
Symptoms will vary according to the type of bacteria and by the amount of contaminated food eaten. Symptoms may occur as early as ½ hour after contaminated food is eaten to several days afterward. Usually, the symptoms last only 1-2 days but can may persist over a week. If symptoms are significant or persistent see your doctor.

Prevention

  • AVOID: Seniors should avoid eating raw or undercooked meat or eggs, raw shellfish, alfalfa sprouts and unpasteurized milk, cheese, fruit or vegetable juices.
  • CLEAN: Wash hands with warm soapy water before preparing food and wash food preparation surfaces before and after each use. Plastic cutting boards are easier to clean. Consider using paper towels to clean surfaces or launder cloth towels often. Always wash any plate, pan, cutting board or container that was used with raw meat before using it for another purpose.
  • COOK: All food requiring cooking should be done thoroughly. Order food well done at restaurants
  • CHILL: Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within 2 hours after cooking and reuse as soon as possible. If more than 2 hours have gone by (including restaurant leftovers) throw the food out. Divide large amounts of leftovers into smaller containers for quicker cooling. Eat refrigerated leftovers within 4 days. Remember, if you are in doubt about the quality of food, it's best to throw it out.
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