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How to cope with Cryptosporidium illness on holiday


Cryptosporidium is a parasite which is usually ingested from contaminated water, such as swimming pool water which is contaminated with human or animal faeces – or contaminated drinking water such as water supplies which are sourced from land near grazing pastures, where animals might soil the water.

The parasite protects itself by existing in a spore and enters the gut through the faecal-oral route.

Symptoms may take up to 12 days to develop, which means some holidaymakers may only become ill when they have returned home to the UK.

The effects of crypto infection can last for around 14 days – and in children and those with weakened immune systems or pre-existing medical conditions, the symptoms can be especially severe.

The symptoms of cryptosporidiosis – the illness resulting from a crypto infection – include:

Holiday Illness
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Watery stools
  • Blood in faces
  • Dehydration.

Because crypto symptoms can take up to 12 days to present themselves, swimming pools can easily become infected if holidaymakers use them while suffering from a stomach illness – or hotels fail to test the water and disinfect the hotel pool daily using chlorine.

If children or babies are allowed to use the pool wearing soiled swimsuits or nappies, a crypto infection can easily take hold – and swimmers who fail to shower before entering the pool or soil the pool can also cause an outbreak of cryptosporidiosis.

If animals or small reptile like lizards access the pool, this can also result in a crypto infection and any incidences of the hotel swimming pool being soiled should be reported both to hotel management and your holiday rep.

If you develop a stomach illness on holiday, it is vital that you do not use the hotel swimming pool – and refrain from using it for the rest of your holiday in case you still have the infection, as it takes up to a month or longer to clear in some cases.

When you return home to the UK, you should visit your GP and get a diagnosis – usually you will be asked to provide a stool sample which will be sent away for laboratory testing.

Because cryptosporidiosis is a parasitic infection, it is usually left untreated to clear by itself as antibiotics will not work. However, sometimes if a secondary infection develops, then antibiotics may be needed, which is why you need to visit your GP when you return home.

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There are drugs which can be used to treat crypto infections, but it is best to wait until you return home to see your own GP rather than accept a prescription from a doctor abroad, who may prescribe medications not licensed in the UK or may not take your full medical history before prescribing a drug – especially if outbreaks of stomach illness are common in your holiday resort or at your hotel. Taking antibiotics unnecessarily can actually make you more prone to infection.

With any gastrointestinal illness, it is important to continue to drink water regularly to prevent dehydration – and still lemonade can help quell feelings of nausea and provide you with some energy.

Over-the-counter medications like loperamide for diarrhoea and domperidone for vomiting should be in every holidaymaker’s first aid kit, too. However, if any gastro illness persist for more than 24 hours or symptoms grow worse, seek medical advice – if you are unsure about local medical centres on holiday, take your UK GP’s number with you on holiday and speak to a practice nurse at the surgery before accepting any medications prescribed in your holiday resort.

Dated: 17/05/2013


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