The summer is over, and autumn is on the doorstep. In the previous blog post, we provided a few general tips for a trouble-free holiday. But however diligent you are about following precautions, you can still be unlucky enough to get sick. If there is one type of illness that is readily associated with both bad luck and holidays, it’s food poisoning/the trots/’Delhi belly’. (We have many names for those we love – or don’t, in this case.)
Food poisoning, or gastroenteritis to give it its technical name, is in itself an accurate description, even though some of the organisms that can cause this type of illness can also be passed on by sexual contact. The recommended treatment for the vast majority of people is plenty to drink and plenty of patience, but children, the elderly, and those with chronic conditions or particularly severe symptoms may require hospital treatment. If you’re in a hot place, it’s easy to become dehydrated quite quickly, and dehydration is the most common cause of hospitalisation in these cases.
Food poisoning usually occurs as a result of eating tainted food or drinking unclean water containing a virus or bacteria that irritates the mucous linings of the stomach/intestinal canal. The most common symptoms are vomiting and/or diarrhoea, plus general debilitation, stomach cramps and in some cases a fever. The most likely cause of gastroenteritis varies depending on where in the world you are, but on the whole it is caused by a virus, bacteria or fungi.
Most people will recover in the course of 24 hours, but for others it may last longer. Many people will have trouble eating anything, which is ok so long as you drink. It’s best to drink little and often, ideally something containing salts or sugar. Most pharmacies sell powders or tablets that can be added to water to help keep the body hydrated. If you can’t keep fluids down either, you should visit a doctor.
One useful thing to remember is that if you are admitted to hospital abroad, you should be screened for MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), which is a bacteria that tolerates most antibiotics. Ask your doctor for advice on this if relevant.
To avoid food poisoning, it’s important to practise good hand hygiene, drink only bottled water if you are uncertain of the water quality, avoid dairy products, and only eat fruit and vegetables that have been peeled.