Traveling allows you to explore other cultures and visit historical landmarks. Unfortunately, traveling is not as simple as stepping off the flight and going on a sightseeing journey. What do you do if you find yourself with an upset stomach while traveling overseas? What must you know about Traveler’s Diarrhea?
Traveler’s Diarrhea (TD) is the most expected travel related illness, ranging from an upset stomach to loose stools during or after travel. Around 30% to 70% of traveler’s experience TD, depending on the destination and season of the journey.
Areas, where there is the highest risk of contracting Traveler’s Diarrhea are Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia.
What causes Traveler’s Diarrhea?
TD is caused by a variety of intestinal pathogens. These include various bacteria (like E.coli), viruses and parasites, that enter the digestive tract, overcome the body’s defense mechanisms and result in diarrhea. TD is most commonly caused by consuming food or water contaminated with these organisms, or by touching the mouth or nose by contaminated hands. It was thought that TD could be avoided by following easy steps such as “boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it”, but studies found that people who followed these steps may still become ill. Poor hygiene in local restaurants is the largest contributor to the risk for TD. Moreover, it can also be caused by a change in diet, dehydration from flying, a change in climate, stress, and even lack of sleep.
Symptoms of Traveler’s Diarrhea
The most typical signs and symptoms of Traveler’s Diarrhea are:
- Sudden onset of diarrhea
- Urgent need to defecate
- Abdominal cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness or discomfort
- Loss of appetite
Traveler’s Diarrhea Treatment
In many cases, Traveler’s Diarrhea does not require any particular treatment. The most important thing is to ensure that you drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration. Oral rehydration solution (ORS) can also help. The standard treatment for TD is to take medications such as Loperamide (Immodium) to manage symptoms. In more severe cases, antibiotics may also be required. It is always better to consult your health care provider before taking any medications.
How to Prevent Traveler’s Diarrhea
It’s best to prevent Traveler’s Diarrhea rather than to treat it. We recommend you the best ways to prevent Traveler’s Diarrhea:
- Eat foods that are freshly cooked and served hot; such foods are better than those on a buffet table, that are sitting out for hours.
- Don’t eat food served at room temperature, avoid street food or raw meat or fish.
- Drink bottled water that is sealed or drink boiled water. Avoid ice cubes.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer, after using washrooms and before eating. Good hand hygiene avoids the spread of germs.
- Avoid swallowing any water while swimming, because swimming in contaminated water can also lead to TD.
Traveler’s Diarrhea can make international travel unpleasant. Take steps to prevent it and enjoy your trip!