Prevent Traveller’s Diarrhea

Stomach on the fritz? Avoid getting the trots while on vacation by following these handy tips

Drink only bottled water on holidays abroad to avoid getting traveller’s diarrhea

Don’t let traveller’s diarrhea keep you down in the dumps during your vacation

It’s estimated that between 20% and 50% of travellers experience Traveller’s Diarrhea (TD) – an intestinal upset that leaves you spending more time in the bathroom than on the beach – with symptoms that include frequent loose, watery stools as well as nausea, cramping and fever.

Most cases of TD are caused by bacteria – often the result of poor sanitation; in rarer cases a virus or parasites may be the culprit. It is more commonly experienced among travellers visiting developing countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

People with compromised immune systems, or diseases such as diabetes or chronic bowel problems are at particular risk.

Protect Yourself from Traveller’s Diarrhea

  • Drink – and brush your teeth with – bottled water. Check to ensure the seal is intact. Wash your hands frequently and well with soap. Carry hand sanitizer and use it often. Avoid ice unless you know it was made with bottled water. Eat cooked food, and avoid salads, or fruits and vegetables that you did not peel yourself.
  • Although most cases of TD resolve themselves within a week (even without medication), the savvy traveller always packs some over-the-counter remedies. Bismuth subsalicylate (e.g., Pepto-Bismol) is usually effective, although it cannot be taken by people who are allergic to Aspirin or who are taking certain other medications.
  • Severe TD can lead to dehydration, which is why it’s important to drink plenty of fluids. Fluids should be limited to bottled water unless a doctor recommends otherwise. A doctor may also prescribe antibiotics, as they can be helpful in some cases.
  • If you are prone to gastrointestinal illness, your doctor can also prescribe a medication that can be taken a few weeks before your departure to help reduce the chances of getting sick. For more information on TD, consult your doctor or contact your local travel clinic.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.