Happy Christmas Diarrhea

The holiday season is upon us with presents, family and lots and lots of food. At least, where I come from, this period is a time where we start eating on Christmas eve and continue until the new year has safely arrived. This sounds all happy and cheerful and festive but there is a possible downside to this long dining and that is: diarrhea.

Gin-Toxin, Bacteria-Cola, White-(Vi)Russian, what’s the difference?

I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again, it’s very important to know what is actually causing your disease because it influences how you treat it. However, all diarrheal diseases need you to drink a lot (no alcohol you party people, water!) and be the most hygienic person in the world.

Family: caring is sharing

Most diarrheal diseases are caused by viruses like norovirus and rotavirus. Especially in children this can cause severe illness. The history is usually a child that got diarrhea at nursery and then the mother got it, siblings, daddy, etc etc. Really nasty, easy to transmit to others and basically nothing we can do about it but wait the 3-10 days it takes for your body to stop the virus. Keep drinking, don’t put any antidiarrheal medication in you and wash your hands as thoroughly as you can after every toilet visit.

Choose wisely

If you get vomiting and diarrhea within 24 hours after you ate something “bad”, that’s usually a toxin from a bacteria (mostly Staph aureus). A bacteria needs time to settle into your digestive system so it will not cause disease that fast but a toxin is nasty right from the start. The scenario would be something like a nice Christmas dinner with lots of family. There is food on the table which is not entirely cooked through or the Dutch tradition: “gourmetten” where you cook your own food on a miniature stove on the table. The food is on or next to some sort of heating system which is like a nice fireplace for the bacteria to get cosy in front of in your meat (and duplicate like crazy). And then you eat it. Hours later you wake up nauseous, you run to the toilet, you vomit. And again, and again. Sometimes you get the diarrhea immediately in which case you need to decide what to put in the toilet, your vomit or the diarrhea. Choose wisely. After about 24 hours the misery stops and leaves you drained but healthy.

Give yourself an after-Christmas treat

A bacteria takes time, about 3 days give or take, to cause the same symptoms. People think about the past day but can’t name anything about their diet that could have caused this horrible disease. But then you dig deeper and it’s actually three days past Christmas and they remember their big diner, gourmetten, etc. And then you know: this is probably salmonella (or shigella, campylobacter or any other bacterial disease). You can wait till your body clears it by itself or if you have fever you can get some antibiotics. Only three days of antibiotics restores your body.

Lovely readers, I wish you all the best for Christmas and the new year but remember to cook your food all the way through. And if you are one of the many sufferers after the holidays: drink enough and power through. I’ll see you in the new year.

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