Who is most at risk for food poisoning?
- Young children: Infants and young children, especially those under the age of 1, can experience serious complications from food poisoning as their immune systems are not well developed enough. Although rare, botulism is of particular concern as it can result in paralysis or even the loss of life. Another is E. coli. Young children tend to dehydrate easily when ill (due to persistent vomiting and diarrhoea). If food poisoning is suspected, or a child begins to dehydrate it is best to seek medical assistance immediately in order to determine the cause and treat it effectively.
- Pregnant women: Certain causes of food poisoning like listeria, have been shown to significantly impact the overall wellbeing (and specifically the development) of an unborn baby. Food poisoning complications that affect a growing baby are rare, however. For the most part, a pregnant woman will experience a more severe reaction to food poisoning, but a baby’s development may not be affected. Any and all instances of food poisoning during pregnancy should, however, be brought to the attention of a medical doctor for a thorough evaluation. Expectant mothers are, in general, considered at higher risk as a result of changes in the body as it adapts and copes with adjustments concerning metabolism and the circulatory system during the various stages of pregnancy.
- Seniors (older adults): Depending on the type of causal pathogen or its strain, those over the age of 60 are more susceptible to more severe side-effects or complications as a result of food poisoning. For instance, some strains of E. coli can cause haemorrhaging (or gastrointestinal bleeding) or even kidney failure. Seniors are more prone to complications as the natural immune response in aging bodies tends to be slower and does not work to eliminate infectious organisms quickly enough.
- Those with chronic medical conditions, compromised immune systems and who are undergoing medical treatment procedures: Risk of serious complications increase for those with chronic conditions such as liver disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and other autoimmune diseases that compromise the immune system, as well as those undergoing medical treatments which suppress the immune system, like chemotherapy or radiation therapy.