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Turkey Travellers’ Diarrhoea and Sickness

Travellers’ diarrhoea in Turkey is sometimes known as the Sultan’s Revenge – and symptoms of fever, headache, stomach cramps and sickness and diarrhoea can wreck a holiday for many tourists visiting Turkey’s popular holiday destinations.

The rise in popularity of all inclusive package holidays to Turkey has resulted in an increase in cases of travellers’ sickness and diarrhoea – and the hotel’s all inclusive buffet is often a source of infection.

Outbreaks of salmonella, E.coli and campylobacter can spread rapidly through a busy package holiday hotel which has a quick turnaround between groups of holidaymakers – meaning some tourists may become ill within a day or so of arriving on holiday, while others take a serious gastrointestinal illness back home with them as an unwanted souvenir of their holiday to Turkey.

Symptoms of Travellers’ Diarrhoea in Turkey

Many cases of travellers’ diarrhoea in Turkey are mild and can be treated with rest and by increasing fluid intake, while cutting back on food and alcohol.

Holiday Illness

However, symptoms of a more serious bout of travellers’ diarrhoea include fever, headache, stomach cramps, vomiting and blood in the stools or in vomit.

If the illness persists for more than 24 hours or grows worse, symptoms of dehydration may set in – these include feeling dizzy, confused, listless and weak. Lack of consciousness may result – and in some cases even death. Children, the elderly and vulnerable patients such as those with cancer or immunodeficient conditions like HIV/Aids may be especially at risk from dehydration if they are not treated, and hospital rehydration therapies may be needed.

Usually serious gastrointestinal infections leading to travellers’ diarrhoea and episodes of vomiting are treated with over-the-counter medications such as loperamide for diarrhoea and domperidone for sickness.

Antibiotics may be needed to clear the infection – a broad spectrum quinolone antibiotic such as ciprofloxacin is usually prescribed, or azithromycin. However, holidaymakers should seek medical advice and not self-medicate with antibiotics in case they have an allergy or medical condition which requires a particular antibiotic to prevent complications.

Holidaymakers should not ignore a gastrointestinal infection if the symptoms are severe or do not get better after 24 hours.

Causes of Travellers’ Diarrhoea in Turkey

There are many causes of travellers’ diarrhoea and sickness in Turkey – but the hotel’s all inclusive buffet is often the culprit, especially if catering staff do not wash their hands while serving or handling foods, or guests fail to wash their hands after using the lavatory or when they have a gastric illness.

Dirty surfaces in a hotel dining room can also be a source of travellers’ diarrhoea – especially if birds, insects, cats or small reptiles like lizards have been allowed to access tables or even food on the buffet.

Cross contamination at the buffet can occur if serving spoons are not kept clean – and dirty cutlery, plates and the rims of glasses and cups may also be the source of infection.

Poor food preparation is another common source of travellers’ diarrhoea – especially if undercooked or raw meat, chicken or fish are served to hotel guests.

Reheated food should be avoided – and dairy produce made with unpasteurised milk or eggs infected with salmonella can also cause infection if they are not cooked properly and served hot.

Infected milk served in tea, coffee and used to make desserts like homemade ice cream can also lead to infection – Turkey is famous for its patisserie but if cream is contaminated then even that tempting pastry may turn out to be a recipe for holiday disaster and lead to a dose of holiday sickness and diarrhoea.

Hotel swimming pools in Turkey which are not cleaned or disinfected properly are another source of travellers’ diarrhoea – most commonly the parasitic infection cryptosporidium, which causes fever, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Contaminated drinking water is another source of travellers’ diarrhoea in Turkey – always drink water from sealed bottles and avoid opened bottles of water, drinking fountains or communal water jugs in the hotel dining room.

Treatment of Travellers’ Diarrhoea in Turkey

Holidaymakers off to Turkey should pack over-the-counter medicines like loperamide for travellers’ diarrhoea and domperidone for vomiting.

It is important to keep hydrated if you have sickness and diarrhoea on holiday in Turkey, as dehydration can cause dizziness, confusion and eventually loss of consciousness. Drink at least 1-2 litres of water daily on holiday in Turkey – and avoid overdosing on alcohol, as this increases the risk of dehydration whether you have stomach illness or not.

It is important to seek medical help for travellers’ diarrhoea and sickness in Turkey if the symptoms last for more than 24 hours or grow worse. It may be that you need a particular antibiotic to clear the infection and a doctor or pharmacist will be able to advise which antibiotic would help.

When you return home, you should always see your GP in the UK for a diagnosis of the infection in case you need further treatment, as the symptoms of some infections such as salmonella can disappear and return a few weeks later if not treated.

Prevention of Travellers’ Diarrhoea in Turkey

Holidaymakers in Turkey should be rigorous in their personal hygiene and make sure they wash their hands frequently – and always after using the lavatory and handling local currency.

Carrying antibacterial handwipes and using these to wipe lavatory seats, the rims of cups and glasses, tables and cutlery can also help prevent travellers’ diarrhoea in Turkey.

Holidaymakers to Turkey should never drink water from a tap or drinking fountain – or even the communal jug in the dining room, or accept bottled mineral water which does not have a sealed cap.

The most common cause of holiday food poisoning is undercooked meat, chicken and fish, so never accept food which has been poorly prepared or is undercooked – hot food should be served hot and cold food should be chilled on the buffet, including salads, desserts, cold meats, cheeses and fruit and vegetables.

Dairy produce can also lead to travellers’ diarrhoea if infected with salmonella or E.coli, which are bacteria both naturally present in soil and the gut of animals. Egg dishes need to be cooked thoroughly – and steer clear of milk served from jugs and always opt for sealed portions of milk for your tea, and milk which has been heated properly for coffees and hot chocolate.

Desserts made with contaminated cream or milk – such as homemade ice cream, cream desserts or mousses – should also be treated with caution; and cheese should be kept chilled on the buffet and served fresh, so avoid cheese which appears on the buffet night after night.

Avoid buffets or BBQs which can be accessed by insects, birds, lizards – and report this to your holiday rep.

If the hotel swimming pool appears dirty, report this to your holiday representative in resort or the hotel manager – dirty pools cause the parasitic infection cryptosporidiosis, which is passed in human and animal faeces. Never soil the pool and always shower before you use the pool – and never allow babies with soiled nappies or children with soiled swimsuits to use the pool.

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