Holiday sickness and diarrhoea – get a diagnosis
However, bacterial infections such as salmonella can disappear only to return a few weeks later with symptoms which can be just as violent as the episodes you suffered on holiday.Many holidaymakers return to the UK having suffered from ill health on holiday and assume that their symptoms will clear up in time.
If holiday illness involving sickness and diarrhoea is severe and if you do not obtain a medical diagnosis, it is possible that the intestine will become inflamed and secondary infections or other conditions such as Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) will result.
This can involve not only having to take medication, but also experiencing long-term side effects such as stomach cramps, painful trapped wind, loose bowel motions, painful constipation, passing mucus and blood – or the uncomfortable feeling of desperately wanting to evacuate your bowels, when only mucus or wind is passed.
People who suffer from such symptoms over a period of time can experience rapid and worrying weight loss and even dehydration.
It can also be necessary to limit your diet – including avoiding high fibre foods and fruit or vegetables. “Pellet” foods like sweetcorn, peanuts or eating fruit with pips like tomatoes can result in especially painful episodes of IBS with long-term inflammation of the bowel.
Different infections causing holiday sickness and diarrhoea may require different antibiotics to clear the infection – and holidaymakers with depressed immune systems such as HIV/AIDS or cancer patients, children or the elderly – may be very badly affected by holiday sickness and diarrhoea, with dehydration potentially causing death if left undiagnosed and untreated.
In the UK, diagnosis of bacterial gastroenteritis such as salmonella, E.coli or campylobacter involves your GP sending a stool sample off for analysis at the Public Health Laboratory.
You can also contact the local council’s environmental health department if you have suffered from a stomach illness involving sickness and diarrhoea on holiday. You may be given a stool sample kit and an envelope for you to send the sample off yourself for analysis at the Public Health Laboratory.
Taking a stool sample
Collecting a stool sample involves using a clean plastic container – either from your doctor or the local environmental health department – and collecting a sample of faeces on a spatula is provided in the kit, or on a clean piece of toilet paper, which you then place in the jar and seal.
If you cannot get to the doctor straight away or have not got an envelope the local environmental health department, wash the container in hot soapy water (making sure the top does not let in water to spoil the stool sample) and dry it off. Place the container in a clean food bag or a small plastic food box – and store the sample in the fridge for safe keeping until you can take it to the doctor or send it off in the envelope provided.
The sooner you send your sample off, the easier it will be for the stool to be analysed. However, some bacteria like E.coli and parasites like cryptosporidium are particularly hardy and adaptable and can survive cold, freezing and hot temperatures – which is another reason why some can survive so well in the gut and you may need a course of a specific antibiotic to clear the infection.
Once you have a diagnosis of the gastric infection you are suffering from, the correct antibiotics or course of treatment can be prescribed. You may also need to be monitored for a while by your GP if the symptoms of your holiday sickness and diarrhoea come and go or develop into another condition such as IBS.
If you became ill on a package holiday abroad through no fault of your own, it is possible that you may be able to make a claim for holiday illness compensation, too – so contact a specialist firm of holiday claims lawyers.