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How to cope with Salmonella illness on holiday


Salmonella is one of the most common food poisoning infections – and salmonella can also be passed on through insects, birds and small reptiles accessing food, as the beaks of birds and skins of reptiles contain salmonella.

The salmonella bacterium naturally occurs in soil, water and the gut of animals, which is how it enters the food chain. If meat, poultry or eggs are not properly stored and cooked to kill the salmonella bacterium, infection can be passed to humans with the result being sickness and diarrhoea.

The symptoms of salmonella holiday illness can be severe and include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Severe stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea – which may occur in violent episodes and contain blood
  • Watery Stools
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Symptoms which disappear and return weeks later.

Salmonella can be especially difficult to combat without treatment as the symptoms subside only to return – and in children under five or vulnerable patients such as the elderly or those with a pre-existing medical condition, salmonella can leave long-lasting health issues, including chronic bowel conditions like Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

The illness salmonellosis – salmonella food poisoning – is often contracted from buffets at all inclusive hotels, especially if there are lapses in food preparation, hotel hygiene and cleanliness and large numbers of hotel guests sharing the same serving spoons.

Washing hands as much as possible is crucial to avoiding infection with salmonella – and avoiding using dirty public lavatories; but sometimes salmonella illness strikes however hard to try to protect yourself.

The signs are usually fever, headache and stomach cramps – and then vomiting or diarrhoea. Episodes of diarrhoea may be especially violent with salmonella, and passing large amounts of watery faeces can soon leave you dehydrated, so making sure you drink plenty of water is vital.

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With violent diarrhoea and vomiting, medical help should always be sought, as some patients will need rehydration therapy in hospital.

Taking over-the counter medications to prevent diarrhoea and vomiting may prolong the symptoms, however, as the bacteria will not be flushed from the body and symptoms may return once you stop taking the medication unless you are treated with antibiotics.

If you are concerned about the standard of medical care available at your holiday resort, contact your GP surgery in the UK for advice on any prescriptions you are given abroad – especially if you are already taking medication for a pre-existing condition.

When you return home, see your GP for a diagnosis – if you are confirmed as having a salmonella infection, it may be that further treatment will be needed if the symptoms return.

Dated: 30/04/2013


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