Police stand guard outside the King Edward VII Hospital in London, where Queen Elizabeth II has been admitted.(Photo: Justin Tallis AFP/Getty Images)
You can never be too careful with an ailing 86-year-old queen.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II has been hospitalized for an apparent stomach infection that has ailed her for days, Buckingham Palace said today.
She was said to be in good spirits, according to palace officials, but the British media went on high alert, ever watchful when health problems arise for the monarch or her husband. Prince Philip, who will be 92 this year, has been hospitalized recently for his own medical issues.
But it was the queen's first hospitalization in 10 years and one of the rare times that she has been forced by health reasons to cancel public engagements, including a trip to Rome this week.
The queen, who turns 87 next month and has long enjoyed robust health, entered London's King Edward VII Hospital, the royal favorite, after first becoming ill on Friday.
Even so, before she was driven to the hospital, she rallied to present one of her staff an award for long service at Windsor Castle, according to media reports.
The move to the hospital was taken as a "precaution," and "all official engagements for this week will regrettably be either postponed or cancelled," the palace statement said. The Daily Mail and others quoted senior officials as saying she would likely remain in the hospital for a couple of days.
The symptoms of gastroenteritis - vomiting and diarrhea - usually pass after one or two days, although they can be more severe in older people. Dehydration is a common complication.
The illness was first announced Friday; the queen had to cancel a visit Swansea, Wales, on Saturday to meet with soldiers of the Royal Welsh Regiment in honor of Wales' national day, St. David's Day. She instead spent the day trying to recover at Windsor Castle, but apparently that was not enough.
The two-day trip to Rome had been planned to start Wednesday and was to be the only foreign trip on her schedule until the end of the year. A palace spokeswoman said the trip may be "reinstated" at a later date.
The queen rarely cancels an engagement; last October she had to pull out of a ceremony at Windsor Castle to award medals because of strain on her back, a problem that also cropped up in 2006.
She hasn't been hospitalized since 2003 when she had knee surgery. As per usual, the British media gathered in droves outside the hospital, as they did only a few months ago when the queen's granddaughter-in-law, Catherine Duchess of Cambridge, was treated there with acute morning sickness.
A doctor not involved in the queen's treatment said that if medical officials determined the ailing monarch had lost too much fluid, she could be rehydrated intravenously.
"I suspect that she's being assessed and that it'll be a relatively uncomplicated treatment," Chaand Nagpaul told Sky News television. "It is very much about ensuring that the body receives the fluid it needs."
The queen is Britain's second-longest-reigning monarch (61 years) and even now usually undertakes about 350 engagements per year. The last week has been typical: On Tuesday, she met the new archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at Buckingham Palace, and on Thursday she presented Olympic stars with honors during a ceremony.
Ingrid Seward, the editor of the Britain's Majesty Magazine, said that the queen "probably agreed to be hospitalized in order to get better quickly."
"Everybody will want to be wishing her a speedy recovery," she told Sky.