For all of the fun and clever names, Travelers’ Diarrhea (TD) is NOT something anyone who travels wishes to experience. Being sick at home is bad enough, but when you’re traveling – it seems so much worse. Over 10 million cases of TD are reported to the CDC annually!
The bad news is that this is the most common ailment of all international travelers. In fact, 20-50% of us will be affected at one time or another. Travelers’ Diarrhea is a bacterial infection that comes on very quickly and usually resolves with a week, but during that time the nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, cramping and stomach upset can make you feel miserable.
Persons at particular high-risk include young adults, persons with compromised immune systems, persons with inflammatory-bowel disease or diabetes, and persons taking H-2 blockers or antacids. We pick up TD from eating or drinking something that has been in contact with contaminated water.
The good news is that with a few precautions, we can greatly lessen our risk for contracting TD.
* Know the “high-risk” areas. If you’re traveling to developing areas in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia be aware that the destination is the greatest indicator of where you’ll most often find TD.
* Prevention works. Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) taken 2 tablets 4 times daily or 2 fluid ounces 4 times daily has been shown to greatly decrease the incidence of TD. Pack a few extra tablets or a small bottle of liquid in your bag – we do!
* Avoid street vendors. This is a tough one for me, because we love eating local foods from street vendors when we travel. But if you want to be 100% sure of not contracting TD, then its best to avoid street food. We usually compromise and will only frequent those who look “safe” though that hasn’t always worked for us, either. 🙂
* Avoid eating raw fruits, like oranges or bananas, unless you’ve peeled them yourself.
* Tap water, ice, unpasteurized milk, and dairy products are associated with increased risk for TD. It’s better to stick with bottled water or beer instead.
If you do end up with a case of Montezuma’s Revenge, the best thing to do is HYDRATE. Clear liquids are routinely recommended for adults. Electrolyte replacement drinks are good for replacing what the body is losing. Thankfully, most cases clear up on their own within a few days, but if you’re still experiencing symptoms, running a fever, or seeing bloody stools, it’s important to see a doctor ASAP.
Happy, Healthy Travels!
As with all medical conditions discussed on the Internet, check first with your doctor before using any alternative treatments.
More Travel Health Tips from The Travel Pharmacist HERE.
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