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Mexico Travellers’ Diarrhoea and Sickness

Package holidays to Mexico are becoming more popular – but many offer all inclusive board and often the all inclusive buffet at Mexico hotels can be a source of holiday food poisoning or travellers’ diarrhoea.

Even first class resorts in Mexico have been the source of outbreaks of holiday illnesses such as salmonella, campylobacter and E.coli among holidaymakers – and in busy hotels with a quick turnaround between groups of holidaymakers, poor standards of cleanliness can mean guests fall ill within days of arriving at their Mexico holiday hotel.

Travellers’ diarrhoea in Mexico is often called Montezuma’s revenge or the Aztec two-step – and anyone who has ever suffered a bout of sickness and diarrhoea while on holiday in Mexico will understand exactly how vengeful the symptoms can seem.

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Symptoms of Travellers’ Diarrhoea in Mexico

Travellers’ diarrhoea and sickness can be caused by a wide range of different bacterial and parasitic infections, but symptoms of holiday food poisoning often include headache, fever, stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea – with blood in the stools and vomit, watery stools and dehydration also common symptoms of severe bouts of food poisoning.

The initial symptoms of food poisoning may sometimes be mistaken for sunstroke or perhaps even a summer chill, as shivering, headache and feeling below par are common initial symptoms.

It is usually only when stomach cramps begin and feelings of nausea start that holidaymaker realise they have contracted a dose of travellers’ sickness and diarrhoea – and then the onset of distressing and sometimes uncontrollable symptoms begins.

Dehydration symptoms include feeling weak, dizzy and confused – and eventually lack of consciousness or even death can result if dehydration is not tackled quickly.

Food poisoning symptoms should begin to improve or at least level out after 24 hours – and if the symptoms grow worse or do not improve, medical help must be sought quickly to prevent dehydration and even a secondary infection, which can occur in the case of campylobacter, shigella and Giardia infections.

Causes of Travellers’ Diarrhoea in Mexico

Mexico is well known for its hot and spicy food, which is as popular in the UK as in Mexico – but meat used for dishes like tacos and nachos must be properly cooked and not allowed to grow lukewarm or even be reheated and reserved.

Undercooked meat, chicken and fish are common causes of travellers’ diarrhoea and sickness, as well as dairy products contaminated with E.coli or salmonella, and drinking water which is contaminated.

Ice cubes made from contaminated water are another source of gastrointestinal infections – and dirty cloths used to clean tabletops in the hotel restaurant or used by those washing up in the hotel kitchen can also spread infections.

Dirty cups, glasses, cutlery, serving spoons and plates and dishes are also common sources of travellers’ diarrhoea among holidaymakers – and if birds, insects or small reptiles like lizards are allowed to access the buffet or BBQ, salmonella can spread quickly as these animals carry salmonella.

Washing hands is crucial for both hotel guests and catering staff – especially after using the lavatory or handling local currency, which can be contaminated if it is handled by individuals who are ill or who have failed to wash their hands after using the lavatory.

Dirty hotel swimming pools can be infected with the Cryptosporidium causes travellers’ diarrhoea and vomiting and is transmitted by the faecal-oral route – crypto can be contracted if animals use the hotel pool or swimmers who are ill, or who fail to shower before using the pool soil the water.

Lack of regular disinfecting or inadequate cleaning of hotels pools can also result in guests becoming ill – and children with soiled nappies or soiled swimsuits should never be allowed into communal swimming pools.

Treatment of Travellers’ Diarrhoea in Mexico

Holidaymakers who become ill with travellers’ diarrhoea and sickness in Mexico need to drink plenty of water to maintain fluid levels in the body and help flush out the germs.

Being ill in a hot country can make dehydration set in much more quickly and you will be perspiring from heat and fever as well as losing vital fluids and salts known as electrolytes through bouts of diarrhoea and vomiting.

Holidaymakers should pack over-the-counter medications such as loperamide for diarrhoea and domperidone for vomiting when they visit high-risk countries like Mexico – but if the symptoms of sickness and diarrhoea last for longer than 24 hours or grow worse, it is important to seek medical help from a doctor or pharmacist.

It may be that you will need a specific antibiotic to clear the infection – and when you return home, visit your GP with a fresh stool sample so that a diagnosis can be obtained, as you may need further treatment.

Once you begin to recover from travellers’ diarrhoea, it is important not to begin eating normally straight away – and also avoid alcohol as this can cause dehydration.

Get your appetite back by eating dry toast and thin tomato soup and a well-cooked omelette. Some people say that curry is a good antidote for stomach problems and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – and small amounts of mild curry such as kormas can help IBS because of the spice turmeric, which can have a soothing effect on the gastrointestinal tract; but take your curry in small doses at first in case it does not work for you and makes you feel worse not better.

Prevention of Travellers’ Diarrhoea in Mexico

Travellers’ diarrhoea can affect between 30-50% of holidaymakers in holiday destinations considered high risk for sickness and diarrhoea and Mexico is one such destination.

Washing hands as much as possible and carrying antibacterial handwipes with you to wipe surfaces, loo seats and cups and cutlery can help prevent infection.

Drinking plenty of bottled water can also help flush bacteria through the system – and cutting down on alcohol and rich, spicy foods can also prevent dehydration and any infection from undercooked meat or chicken.

Never eat any foods which appear, undercooked or reheated and served up on the buffet again – and steer clear of unpasteurised dairy products like milk and cheese, or eggs which have not been cooked thoroughly or served hot, as these may contain salmonella bacteria.

Any issues with hygiene at a Mexico hotel should be reported immediately – including staff not washing hands, serving or storing raw and cooked meat or poultry from the same pans or using the same utensils, as well as dirty tabletops in the hotel restaurant and dirty public areas, such as the pool or public lavatories at an hotel.

Never drink from a communal jug of water in the dining room – and only ever drink from sealed bottles of mineral water.

Avoid ice cubes in Mexico as these might have been made using contaminated water – and be careful when eating unpeeled fruit and vegetables or salads, which might have been washed in contaminated water.

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