Typhoid fever can usually be treated successfully with a course of antibiotic medicine.
The infection can usually be treated at home, but you may need to be admitted to hospital if it's severe.
Treatment at home
If typhoid fever is diagnosed in its early stages, a course of antibiotic tablets may be prescribed for you. Most people need to take these for 7 to 14 days.
Some strains of the Salmonella typhi bacteria that cause typhoid fever have developed a resistance to one or more types of antibiotics.
This is increasingly becoming a problem with typhoid infections originating in southeast Asia.
Any blood, poo or pee samples taken during your diagnosis will usually be tested in a laboratory to determine which strain you're infected with, so you can be treated with an appropriate antibiotic.
Your symptoms should begin to improve within 2 to 3 days of taking antibiotics. But it's very important you finish the course to ensure the bacteria are completely removed from your body.
Make sure you rest, drink plenty of fluids and eat regular meals. You may find it easier to eat smaller meals more frequently, rather than 3 larger meals a day.
You should also maintain good standards of personal hygiene, such as regularly washing your hands with soap and warm water, to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others.
Contact your GP as soon as possible if your symptoms get worse or you develop new symptoms while being treated at home.
A small number of people with typhoid fever have recurring symptoms. This is known as a relapse.
Staying off work or school
Most people being treated for typhoid fever can return to work or school as soon as they start to feel better.
The exceptions to this are people who work with food and vulnerable people, such as children under 5, the elderly and those in poor health.
In these circumstances, you or your child should only return to work or nursery after tests on 3 poo samples taken at 48-hour intervals have shown that the bacteria are no longer present.
As a precaution, young children who develop typhoid fever may be admitted to hospital.
In hospital, you'll have antibiotic injections and you may also be given fluids and nutrients directly into a vein through an intravenous drip.
Surgery may be needed if you develop life-threatening complications of typhoid fever, such as internal bleeding or a section of your digestive system splitting.
But this is very rare in people being treated with antibiotics.
Most people respond well to hospital treatment and improve within 3 to 5 days, but it may be several weeks until you're well enough to leave hospital.
Some people who are treated for typhoid fever experience a relapse, which is when symptoms return.
If this happens, the symptoms usually return around a week after antibiotic treatment has finished.
The second time around, symptoms are usually milder and last for a shorter 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.
After your symptoms have passed, another poo sample should be tested to check if there are still Salmonella typhi bacteria in your poo.
If there are, you may have become a carrier of the typhoid infection. This means the Salmonella typhi bacteria continue to live in your body and can be spread as normal in poo or pee. But you will not have any noticeable symptoms.
It’s possible for the bacteria to live in your body for 12 months or more after you first became infected.
You may need to have a further 28-day course of antibiotics to "flush out" the bacteria.
Until test results show that you're free of bacteria, avoid handling or preparing food.
It's also very important that you wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet.
Page last reviewed: 20 September 2021
Next review due: 20 September 2024