Known as 'Montezuma's revenge' or 'Dehli Belly', food poisoning can be thoroughly unpleasant. Avoid it by steering clear of contaminated food or drinking water. Treat it by hydrating with lots of clean water.

Food poisoning is the result of eating food that has become contaminated by germs or other harmful substances. The symptoms are very similar to those of a non-food-related gastrointestinal infection, but often come on more suddenly.

The body can react violently to contaminated food, with diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach cramps, abdominal and muscle pains, fever and chills. The symptoms, though unpleasant, can generally be soothed and usually abate within a week.

It most commonly occurs as a result of poor hygiene in the preparation of food or the consumption of food that has been kept for too long or in the wrong conditions. You can easily prevent food poisoning at home by paying scrupulous attention to hygiene precautions, and food storage and preparation.

 

Avoiding holiday hell

‘Montezuma’s revenge', ‘Delhi belly’ and other varieties of travellers' diarrhoea can ruin the most perfect holiday or the most vital business trip. The usual cause is the consumption of contaminated food or drinking water. Visitors to Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America are especially at risk and, because they have no immunity to local bugs, they may develop symptoms even if residents can eat and drink the same fare with no adverse effects.

Fortunately, you can usually resist these infections with a little knowledge and forethought.

  • Do not drink non-bottled water or drinks containing ice cubes, and use bottled water for cleaning teeth.
     
  • Avoid seafood, reheated or merely warmed foods and uncooked foods that may have been washed in contaminated water, such as salads.
     
  • Always peel fruit before eating.

 

TREAT IT

  • Sip slowly at least 2 litres of water a day, plus 200ml for every loose stool.
     
  • For elderly or vulnerable people, include rehydration salts, available from a pharmacist.
     
  • When appetite starts to return, introduce small portions of plain food such as rice, bread or pasta in the first 24 hours.

 

Seek medical help

If symptoms persist or are extreme, if being unable to keep liquids down lasts for longer than a day, if the patient is very young or old, pregnant or has other medical conditions that make them vulnerable, such as a weakened immune system.

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