Typhoid fever

Treating typhoid fever

Treatment at home

If typhoid fever is diagnosed in its early stages, usually during the first week, a course of antibiotic tablets may be prescribed for you. Most people require a 7- to 14-day course of antibiotics.

Some strains of the Salmonella typhi bacteria have developed a resistance to one or more types of antibiotics. Therefore, you may be prescribed a combination of different antibiotics, depending on where in the world the infection is thought to have originated.

Your symptoms should begin to improve within two to three days of taking antibiotics, but it is very important that you finish the complete course so that your symptoms do not reoccur.

Make sure that you rest, drink plenty of fluids and eat regular meals. You may be able to tolerate eating smaller, more frequent meals rather than three larger meals a day.

Hospital treatment

Hospital admission is usually recommended if you have:

  • persistent vomiting
  • severe diarrhoea
  • a swollen abdomen

As a precaution, young children who develop typhoid may also be admitted to hospital.

You will be given antibiotic injections and you may also be attached to an intravenous drip so that you can be given fluids and nutrients.

Surgery may also be required to correct any life-threatening complications that develop, such as internal bleeding or if a section of the digestive system splits. However, this is very rare in people being treated with antibiotics.

Read more about complications of typhoid fever.

Most people respond well to hospital treatment, and improve within three to five days. However, it may be several weeks until you are well enough to leave hospital.

Relapse

Around 1 in 20 people who are treated for typhoid fever experience a relapse, when symptoms return. Symptoms usually return around a week after antibiotic treatment has finished.

The second time around, symptoms are usually milder and last for a shorter amount of time than the original illness, but further treatment with antibiotics is usually recommended. See your GP as soon as possible if your symptoms return after treatment. 

Long-term carriers

After your symptoms have passed, you should have another stool test to check if there are still Salmonella typhi bacteria in your faeces. If there are, it means that you are a carrier of typhoid fever and you will need to have a further 28-day course of antibiotics to "flush out" the bacteria.

Until test results show that you are free of bacteria, avoid handling or preparing food. It is also very important that you wash your hands thoroughly after going to toilet.

Glossary

Antibiotics
Antibiotics are medicines that can be used to treat infections caused by micro-organisms, usually bacteria or fungi. Examples of antibiotics include amoxicillin, streptomycin and erythromycin.

Bacteria
Bacteria are tiny, single-celled organisms that live in the body. Some can cause illness and disease and others are good for you.

Fever
A fever is when you have a high body temperature (over 38C or 100.4F).

Intravenous
Intravenous (IV) means the injection of blood, drugs or fluids into the bloodstream through a vein. 

Last updated: 31 January 2012

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