This column appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette. To syndicate the national version, contact DrHubbard [at] TheSurvivalDoctor [dot] com.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Easter is the time of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And what better way to celebrate than … an Easter egg hunt.

Many children and adults will spend a fun-filled afternoon hunting those elusive, brightly colored eggs that old, sneaky Easter Bunny hid. And a few will spend the next few days with a bad stomachache, vomiting and diarrhea.

Even many who aren’t eating eggs this Sunday are at risk. Many eat them regularly. Some even have their own chickens. The problem, of course, is salmonella.

A lot of chickens have ovaries filled with salmonella. The eggs they lay contain the bacteria inside and out. It doesn’t matter if you’re eating them or putting them in a basket; you and your children are at risk.

A few simple steps can decrease that risk to nil:

  1. Cook the eggs thoroughly. No eggs-over-easy. Fry those suckers or boil them well. If they’re for Easter, boil 15 minutes.
  2. Wash your hands immediately after handling raw eggs, whether cooking, coloring or gathering. The less time allowed for the temptation of the hands going to the mouth, the better. No water? Use disinfectant hand-wipes or gel.
  3. Disinfect counters, containers or any area raw eggs have touched.
  4. Refrigerate when you can.
  5. Don’t eat or play with eggs that have been at room temperature for more than two hours.
  6. In fact, I’d suggest not eating the hidden eggs. Maybe save a few in the fridge before hiding the rest. Although I hear the chocolate kind are pretty good for eating also.

Now I’m not trying to put down eggs. They aren’t the only salmonella carriers. You can get it from poultry and beef—even those cute little Easter chicks (the feathery kind). Pet reptiles, streams and lakes can carry it. And don’t forget other people.

Salmonella is contagious. The best ways to prevent it are hand washing and thorough cooking—same as with the eggs.

Symptoms and Treatment

The symptoms take a little time to develop. You’re doing well, then 12 to 72 hours after exposure, wham—abdominal cramping, fever, vomiting and diarrhea, which lasts five to seven days.

While you’re sick, drink plenty of fluids. If you can’t take them by mouth, you may need an IV. Have a doctor check you out if you feel especially horrible, or if you can’t get fluids in by 12 hours or so. Sometimes it gets bad enough to spend time in the hospital. Antibiotics are usually not prescribed except in the more severe cases.

At home, get plenty of bed rest, and stay on clear liquids until the diarrhea lets up. That’s water, ice chips, ginger ale, Pedialyte, tea, broth, watered down sports drinks, Jell-O, Popsicles. Sip slowly and often.

If you’re not urinating every few hours or you’re getting fainty when you stand, you’re getting dehydrated. Drink more or get IV fluids.

After the diarrhea lets up, try the BRAT die: bananas, rice, applesauce, toast. Crackers and mashed potatoes (no milk or butter) are also good. If you have fever, take Tylenol (acetaminophen; read the precautions first). It might make you feel a little better, but the main reason is fever increases your metabolism and could make you dehydrate faster.

If you can’t get to expert medical help for some reason and you’re vomiting everything you drink, quit drinking for a few hours. You’re vomiting not only the fluids but also electrolytes like sodium and potassium.

Then take a sip or two of liquids, wait five minutes, try another sip or two. Keep it small and slow. It’s more likely to stay down.

There’s not much else you can do unless you have IV fluids. Remember, if it’s salmonella, the diarrhea will last five to seven days. You can make it if you can keep in the fluids.

However, in the U.S., about 400 people die from salmonella poisoning every year. Take it seriously. Play it safe. Get help if you need it.

Colorado Springs family doctor James Hubbard teaches how to survive when you can’t get to a doctor at TheSurvivalDoctor.com, one of the most popular survival websites. Dr. Hubbard is the author of the best-selling e-books
The Survival Doctor’s Guide to Wounds and The Survival Doctor’s Guide to Burns.