It happens to every traveler at one point or another, and it can ruin even the most carefully laid plans. Traveler’s diarrhea is unpleasant but it is an almost inevitable aspect of life on the road. Here, I talk about the symptoms to expect, how to avoid getting them in the first place, and what you can do to treat it as quickly as possible.
What is traveler’s diarrhea?
Traveler’s diarrhea is a gastrointestinal illness that affects travelers. Common symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps. Up to 50% of travelers experience traveler’s diarrhea at some point during their travels, especially if they are traveling in developing countries.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach cramps
- Loss of appetite
- Explosive and / or painful gas
What causes it and how can you avoid getting it?
The main cause of travelers’ diarrhea is the consumption of contaminated food or water, with food being the main cause. Most cases are caused by the bacteria E Coli. Despite popular belief, one of the easiest ways to avoid getting traveler’s diarrhea is to eat at popular street food stalls, especially in Southeast Asia. Aim for a booth with a high turnover and where you can see the food being prepared in front of you.
If you are traveling to a country that has frequent power outages and problems with refrigeration (Nepal is a good example), you should consider avoiding dairy, fruits and vegetables, and staying away from meat.
Bottled drinks, beer and wine, hot coffee and tea, and peelable fruits should be safe, just check that the bottles are sealed before you buy!
How can you treat it?
First of all, you should try to avoid Imodium treatment. All he does is prolong his suffering until the next day. The only reason to take Imodium is if you have a long bus ride ahead of you and you know that you will ask the driver to stop for a bath every three minutes! If you have something you can’t get out of, take an Imodium. If you can get away with alone at your guesthouse until you pass, avoid it.
Next, you want to stay as hydrated as possible; Hopefully you packed some rehydration sachets in your first aid kit as we recommend! You will want to try to remove the insect as quickly as possible and water, along with rehydration sachets can help with this. Diarrhea can cause dehydration, so be sure to drink as much as possible.
Another way to treat travelers’ diarrhea is to avoid food if that’s a trigger. If you are nauseous and think the food will make you vomit, skip the food for a few days until you feel better. A liquid diet will help eliminate the mistake and you won’t risk eating anything else that could make it worse!
You should leave antibiotics as a last resort, as most cases will recover without the need for antibiotics. The only exception is if it lasts longer than a week and shows no signs of improvement. In that case, you’ll want to head to a doctor and see what they suggest as a course of treatment.
How long will it last?
It depends is not a satisfactory answer, even if it is the honest answer. Instead, I’ll tell you that, in my experience, in the dozen times I’ve contracted traveler’s diarrhea, it lasted 48 hours. The worst usually happens in 24 hours and I feel fragile for the next day. After that, I am generally ready to start introducing foods into my diet.
If it lasts longer than seven days, seek a doctor, as you may need antibiotics.