The holidaymaker’s guide to avoiding serious holiday illness
But more holidaymakers are having to make compensation claims for serious gastric infections contracted abroad – and often while on package holidays where there was an all inclusive buffet.We all have a holiday photo taken when we were smiling bravely through holiday illness – whether it was sunburn, mosquito bites, holiday food poisoning – or simply a bit of a hangover!
There are many different bacterial and parasitic infections which cause holiday sickness and diarrhoea – and often cross contamination in the hotel dining room or a contaminated swimming pool are the main sources.
Holiday gastrointestinal illness is easily avoided if food preparation and general hygiene standards are maintained – but if food is undercooked or reheated and reserved, or the hotel swimming pool is not properly disinfected with chlorine, then hotel guests can soon become very ill indeed.
Here are some of the more serious bacterial or parasitic infections and illnesses holidaymakers pick up on holiday:
- Dengue fever – we all know that mosquito bites can cause malaria, but they can also cause an illness known as dengue fever, or breakbone fever. Those going on holiday to tropical and subtropical holiday destinations such as the Seychelles and resorts in Central America and South-East Asia are most at risk and symptoms of dengue fever naturally include fever, as well as severe headaches (with a feeling there is pain behind the eyes) and pain in joints. A bright rash usually follows five days after the fever – but the symptoms can take two weeks to develop so you may not be ill until your return home. Usually bed rest will cure dengue fever unless you have a chronic health issue already. But see your GP if you return from tropical climes with abnormal symptoms.
- DVT – Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can occur in young healthy adults as well as older people and is the result of a blood clot usually in the leg. Sitting still for long periods or in a cramped space – such as on a long haul flight or in a car – can cause DVT and wearing flight socks and taking exercise on a flight can help prevent it. The symptoms of DVT may be pain followed by swelling and redness in the limb – and then breathlessness. Smokers and those taking the contraceptive Pill are thought to have an increased risk. Anticoagulants are used to dispel blood clots but it is important to seek medical help as soon as the symptoms arise, as blood clots are unpredictable and can travel quickly round the body and lodge in the lungs or brain, causing potentially fatal symptoms.
- Giadiasis Lamblia – most holidaymakers know about holiday food poisoning infections like salmonella and E.coli, but Giardia Lamblia is not quite so well known, but causes symptoms which are just as distressing. The gastric illness Giardiasis is common in Africa, former Eastern Bloc countries and Turkey and is a parasitic infection which invades the intestines and multiplies there. Giardia infection is treated with antiprotozoal medication and the usually sources of infections are ice cubes, swimming in lakes and rivers, contaminated swimming pool water and contaminated drinking water. If you have a severe food poisoning infection on holiday, always seek a diagnosis – and the sooner the better.
- Hepatitis A – Hepatitis A is an infection which can kill in some cases, so early diagnosis is essential. Contaminated food and water is the usual source and the infection causes extreme lethargy as well as yellowing eyes, bruised skin and jaundice, as the infection attacks the liver. If you are tanned or dark-skinned you may not notice jaundice, so if you return from Central and South America, Africa and Asia feeling strangely unwell, always seek a diagnosis. Hep A can also cause mental confusion and bleeding.
- Lyme disease – Lyme disease is also known as tick-bite disease and can be contracted in the UK as well as abroad. The rash which results from the bite has a white centre with a red ring and is known as a bullseye rash. The symptoms can take more than a month to develop, so you may be bitten but not associate the rash with the tick bite. Other symptoms include muscle and joint pain, fever, headaches and fatigue – and if left untreated Lyme disease can result in nerve damage, arthritis and damage to your heart rhythm. For holidaymakers visiting more remote or rural areas, being aware of lyme disease is essential –always seek medical help, as you will need antibiotics to clear the infection.
- Malaria – malaria is another mosquito-borne disease which kills millions of people across the globe and affects those in tropical or subtropical areas. Symptoms of malaria can take around a month to develop following a mosquito bite and sometimes mimic early-stage symptoms of flu. Be on the alert for fever, shivering, painful joints and vomiting if you have been bitten by a mosquito – and always seek medical help, as malaria is a killer and can result in anaemia, fits, fluid on the lungs, kidney failure and loss of consciousness. Even if you take anti-malaria medications, always see you doctor if you feel ill following a mosquito bite – and always keep taking the malaria medication for up to a month after you return home from a holiday in a malaria risk zone.