Food Poisoning Threatens Nursing Home Residents
August 15th, 2016 by Attorney Roger Weinberg
For most of us, a bout of food poisoning is a temporary, but awful, experience causing pain, vomiting and diarrhea. For those living in Maryland nursing homes, food poisoning can be a serious threat because of advanced age, poor health, impaired immune systems and pre-existing medical conditions.
Food poisoning symptoms can vary, depending on the cause of the contamination. According to the Mayo Clinic, most food poisoning causes one or more of the following
- Watery diarrhea
- Abdominal pain and cramps
These symptoms could start within hours after eating the contaminated food or be delayed for days or weeks. Symptoms normally last from a few hours to several days.
Food contamination may happen at any point during its production, including growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping or preparing. Cross-contamination (harmful organisms being spread from one surface to another) is often the cause. This is especially easy when raw, ready-to-eat foods, such as salads or other produce, is being used. When foods aren’t cooked before consumption, harmful organisms aren’t destroyed, causing food poisoning.
There are many bacteria, viruses and parasites that can cause food poisoning. They may be spread when preparation surfaces aren’t clean enough, food isn’t properly stored, meat isn’t cooked enough or when kitchen staff are not properly washing their hands.
The most common, serious complication from food poisoning is dehydration (the severe loss of water and essential salts and minerals). Fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhea need to be replaced or dehydration may occur. If this occurs, a nursing home resident may need to receive intravenous fluids or go to the hospital. Dehydration can be fatal.
Some types of food poisoning can result in serious complications for older people or those with chronic medical conditions. One of them is Escherichia coli (E. coli). Certain strains can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome. This damages the lining of tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, which can cause kidney failure. Older adults and those with weakened immune systems run a higher risk of developing this complication.
Medical treatment of food poisoning depends on the source of the illness and the severity of the symptoms. For most of us, the situation resolves without treatment within a few days, though for some types of food poisoning suffered by an older population it may last longer or be fatal.
Treatment may include:
- Replacement of lost fluids: Fluids and electrolytes (minerals including sodium, potassium and calcium) lost to diarrhea need to be replaced. Some adults with persistent diarrhea or vomiting may need to be hospitalized to prevent or treat dehydration.
- Antibiotics: If the nursing home resident has certain kinds of bacterial food poisoning and the symptoms are severe, antibiotics may be used.
If you or a loved one has suffered from a serious case of food poisoning at a Maryland nursing home, we can help you address the situation and hold those responsible accountable for their actions. At the Law Offices of Roger S. Weinberg, you’ll find compassionate support and experienced advocates to help your family through the tough times. Call 410-825-3161 today to schedule a free consultation.