Essex health: Don’t get caught out by seasonal illnesses

Dr Nirmalan (known as Nim) de Silva, who is a GP in Colchester

Dr Nirmalan (known as Nim) de Silva, who is a GP in Colchester - Credit: Archant

As some of you may be aware, it is the season for gastroenteritis – commonly known as a stomach bug.

The diarrhoea and vomiting that usually follows are unpleasant illnesses but in the vast majority of cases can be treated at home and if advice is needed, this can be obtained from your pharmacist, GP or by calling NHS 111.

It may be tempting to attend Accident and Emergency at the hospital for this, but almost always, there is nothing that should be done and it is rare that A&E will be able to do things that your GP – or the out of hours GP service – cannot do for you.

And worse, by going to hospital with diarrhoea and vomiting, you increase the chance of spreading it to other patients in the hospital and this can result in wards being closed and sadly for some, patients dying.

Prevention is better than cure, good hand hygiene is important as well as ensuring food is stored and cooked correctly.

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If you do have gastroenteritis, your symptoms normally settle within 72 hours and it is important to drink fluids little and often (even if you are vomiting). You can get good advice on what to drink from your pharmacist.

Remember – the diarrhoea and vomiting is our bodies’ way of getting rid of the infection and while the symptoms can be stopped, that means that the infection stays in you.

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If you are passing blood, are experiencing severe abdominal pain, are concerned about dehydration or have concerns that you do not feel a pharmacist can help with, contact your GP or ring 111.

Colchester Hospital has issued an appeal to people not to visit relatives or friends in hospital if you have a stomach upset, diarrhoea, vomiting or flu-like symptoms or if you have had these up to four days ago.

The Hospital has had some problems already with norovirus on some wards, and it is crucial that we keep the bug out to keep the Hospital working to full capacity for patients who need sometimes life-saving treatment. Don’t forget, if you do get ill in this way, plenty of rest, keep drinking fluids and don’t go back to work or school until you have been completely clear of symptoms for 48 hours.

For advice on staying well this winter and what to do if you get ill, visit

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