‘Stomach bug’ boom during Hari Raya

By Zulkiple Ibrahim

One day after the recent Aidilfitri, this writer, who happened to be in a Felda settlement near Triang in Pahang, was
asked to accompany two of his nephews to seek treatment for stomach upset.

At the private clinic in Triang, a number of patients waited to see the doctor. Many complained of having a “stomach bug”.

“What could be causing stomach upset?” this writer asked the attending doctor, who wished to be known as Dr Vijay.
“There are many possible causes. It may be something that you ate or drank,” he said.

“It can be because of food poisoning caused by contaminated food, or simply because of over eating and drinking. If you eat or drink too much, you can get indigestion or an upset stomach,” he said.

Greasy, spicy and fatty food

In festive seasons such as Hari Raya, many patients complaining of stomach upset seek treatment at his clinic, said Dr Vijay.

“Eating certain types of foods, such as greasy, spicy, or fatty foods, sometimes can cause indigestion or an upset stomach,” he said.

“Upset stomach is usually a mild problem that goes away on its own. But sometimes it can be a sign of underlying medical issues, such as gastroesophageal reflux, ulcers, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, an intestinal infection, and some types of cancer,” warned Dr Vijay.

Although it is usually a minor problem in adults, stomach upset can be serious for babies and children.

“If your baby or child has an upset stomach, get medical attention promptly,” advised Dr Vijay.


Returning to the city a few days after Hari Raya, this writer consulted a senior medical officer at a public medical centre about indigestion.

Dr Robert Lim said gastroenteritis is commonly known as upset stomach. It can be caused by an infection of the gut, either viral or bacterial.

“You can get a mild bout, where you may have a bit of diarrhea, or it can be a more serious infection, with fever, vomiting and stomach pain that can go on for days.

“You can pick up a bad stomach bug such as E. coli or campylobacter from contaminated food or drinks. Dr Lim said gastroenteritis is an infection of the gut that causes diarrhoea.

“There is also vomiting, stomach pain. In most cases, the infection clears up over several days, but sometimes it takes longer.”

Main risk

It is essential to drink a lot of water for rehydration, said Dr Lim, noting that the main risk in gastroenteritis is dehydration.

“The main treatment is to drink a lot of fluids,”

“You should see a doctor if you suspect that you are dehydrating, or if you have any worrying symptoms,” said Dr Lim.

Such symptoms in adults would include tiredness, dizziness or light-headedness, headache, muscular cramps, sunken eyes, passing little urine, dry mouth and tongue, weakness, and irritability.

“When dehydration becomes severe, the symptoms are general body weakness, confusion, rapid heart-rate and coma.

Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and immediate medical attention is needed,” he said. Dr Lim said the reasons for indigestion include overeating, eating too fast, and drinking too much, in addition to eating fatty, spicy, or greasy food.

“It also may be caused by emotional stress or by a medical problem in the digestive system, such as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), gallstones, inflammation of the pancreas, ulcers, or cancer. Sometimes, no cause can be found,” he said.


Dr Lim advises a change in lifestyle to deal with occasional indigestion. “Eat smaller, more frequent meals, and chew your food well. Avoid smoking, alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated beverages,” he said.

Dr Lim also advises a person to get plenty of rest and find ways to manage . What about self-treatment?

“Although many cases of indigestion can be treated at home, you should see your doctor if you have frequent vomiting, bloody vomit or blood in the stool, or have trouble swallowing food.

“You should also get medical attention if there is abdominal pain outside of the area between the chest bone and belly button. You should also see a doctor if the symptoms last longer than a few days,” he added.

– Bernama

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