Senior Living Care Blog

Dealing With a Stomach Bug For Older Adults

Posted by Joe Gilmore on Feb 8, 2019 11:00:00 AM

Taking care of the body and identifying health problems early becomes more important as we age, as these problems can lead to more serious health problems due to weakened immune system among older individuals. There are a number of health risks to be aware of including norovirus, the flu, food poisoning and more. If help is not sought out, these stomach problems can lead to serious health complications, and even death, for some.


The flu alone leads to thousands of deaths a year. If you or a loved one is experiencing some type of stomach pain, it is a good idea to seek out medical attention to ensure your safety. However, to avoid the situation entirely, there are some steps you can take to try and reduce your risk of having to pay a hospital visit. Simple things like washing your hands and making sure your living area is clean are small things that can play a big role in your health.



Types of Stomach Bugs

A tissue box, glasses, and a cup of warm tea

The term “stomach bug”, is often referring to a contagious virus known as norovirus. However, to some it is considered an umbrella to refer to a number of different types of viruses and illnesses that can affect anyone and, if not treated properly, can lead to serious health consequences.



Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes inflammation to the stomach and intestines. Norovirus can lead to problems such as stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. While norovirus shares similar symptoms as the flu, it is not related. Every year, norovirus causes between 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations and 570 to 800 deaths, mostly in young children and the elderly.


Norovirus spreads easily through direct contact, eating foods or drinks that are contaminated with norovirus, and many other ways. Unfortunately antibiotics will not help as they have no effect on viruses. If you have norovirus illness, be sure to drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid loss and prevent dehydration.



It is known that people 65 years and older are at a greater risk of complications from the flu compared to younger, healthy seniors because of the weakened immune system in older seniors. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s estimated that about 70 to 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older and 50 to 70 percent of hospitalizations occurred among people in that age group.


Symptoms associated with the flu include fever, sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, chills, and fatigue. Vomiting and diarrhea are sometimes a symptom as well. Some emergency signs of flu sickness include difficulty breathing, sudden dizziness, confusion, pain or pressure in the chest. If any of these symptoms start, medical attention should be found as soon as possible.


Food Poisoning

Food safety is extremely important for seniors 65 and older, as they are at a higher risk for hospitalization and even death from food borne illnesses. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the bodys of older individuals hold on to foods for longer time in the stomach and intestinal tract and the liver and kidneys may not readily rid the bodies of toxins. By the age of 65, many people will have been diagnosed with a chronic disease that requires medication which may weaken the immune system, increasing risk of contracting a food borne illness.


There are a number of types of food poisoning, one prominent example is salmonella. Salmonella is generally contracted as a result of raw or under cooked eggs, poultry, and meat. The problem can cause stomach pain, nausea, and chills. The problem is especially severe for people with weakened immune systems and can cause serious complications including death.



According to the CDC, there are millions of cases of parasitic infections each year. While the problems generally affect low-income, marginalized communities, they can still pop up anywhere. There are five common neglected parasitic infections including, Chagas disease, cysticercosis, toxocariasis, toxoplasmosis, and trichomoniasis.


There are a number of different symptoms that you can deal with depending on the type of parasitic infection that someone is dealing with. However some common problems include cramping, abdominal illness, and diarrhea.




There are a number of ways to help prevent and reduce your risk of dealing with some of these problems. For instance, practicing proper hygiene is one of the best ways to deal avoid things like norovirus and the flu. Washing your hands regularly with soap and water and using alcohol-based hand sanitizer can both be helpful in preventing these problems. Similarly, preparing foods properly by washing fruits and vegetables and cooking seafood thoroughly are important for protecting yourself from things like noroviruses and parasitic problems.


Keeping living areas clean by disinfectants is an effective way to stay healthy from some of these stomach bugs. If you throw up, it is important to immediately disinfect the contaminated area to stop the spread of the illnesses. One form of prevention that often gets overlooked is laundry. Washing laundry thoroughly and often will help reduce the spread of some illnesses.



In Conclusion

Stomach bugs, like norovirus, the flu, and parasitic infections, can all lead to stomach problems like nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, and more. The problem can get even more complicated for older seniors who have weakened immune systems. However, there are a number preventative methods that you can take to reduce your risk of contracting one of these illnesses. Practicing simple hygiene habits and keeping your living area clean are easy ways to help you or a loved one avoid these problems.Enlisting the help of a caregiver or joining an assisted living community can help keep you safe from these types of viruses and illnesses.


At Landmark Senior Living, we have a dedicated care staff that can help you with medical issues you may be dealing with. Our senior living facilities also offer residents fun, social events to keep them happy during this lifestyle change. If you are interested in learning more, please reach out to our admissions staff today.


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Topics: Senior Health

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