You are packed and ready to go? Wait, are you well prepared on the health front? Don’t let health issues spoil a beautiful holiday! The most common travel-related illness is traveller’s diarrhoea. It can occur anywhere, but the highest-risk destinations are in most of South and South-East Asia, Central America, West and North Africa, East Africa.
Traveller’s diarrhoea can occur at any time during the trip, or even after the person returns home. Mostly caused by consuming contaminated food or water, it is generally a self-limiting condition that usually clears up after a few days.
The risk of traveller’s diarrhoea is higher when sanitation and hygiene standards are poor. It is believed to occur more often in younger than older adults, as younger people love adventurous activity such as backpacking.
Symptoms of Traveller’s Diarrhoea:
- Abrupt onset passage of diarrhoea 3 times or more in a day.
- Urgent need to have bowel movement.
- Abdominal cramp.
- General weakness and discomfort.
When to see a Doctor:
Traveller’s diarrhoea usually goes away on its own within several days. But the symptoms may last longer and severe depending on the type of organism attacking you. This is when you need prescription medicine to get well:
- Severe dehydration through persistent vomiting and diarrhoea
- Bloody stool.
- High fever of 390c
- Signs of drowsiness or unresponsiveness
- Decreased urine output.
Tips for Avoiding Traveller’s Diarrhoea:
- Drink from Bottled or canned drinks.
– Always drink from a factory-sealed bottle or can which is safe. Watch out for fake factory sealed bottles containing tap water.
– Carbonated drink such as soda or sparkling water, are safest since the bubbles indicate that the bottle was sealed at the factory.
– Wipe off the lip of the can before you drink directly from it.
- Hot drinks are safer.
-Hot coffee and tea should be safe if it was made with boiling water. Beware of adding items that may be contaminated such as cream or lemon.
- Do not eat Raw food.
-Always avoid eating any kind of raw food. Avoid raw vegetables such as salads or fresh salsas.
– Raw meat or seafood which is ‘cooked’ with citrus juice, vinegar, or other acidic liquid should be strictly avoided.
– Avoid cut fruits. Always prefer fruits which you can peel.
- Hot food – avoid if left around.
– Food that is served steaming hot is usually safe to be consumed as bacteria would be destroyed by high heat.
– Avoid cooked food which is cooled and sitting around for a while at room temperature such as in buffet, the food can get contaminated again.
- Dry or packaged food are safe.
– Dry food such as bread, biscuits, chips are usually safe to consume.
-Food from factory-sealed container, such as the canned food is also safe as long it was not opened or handled by another person.
6. Alcoholic drinks – avoid adding ice.
-Alcohol from sealed bottles are generally safe to drink. But do avoid the use of ice cube, as it may be produced from contaminated water.
7. Be prepared for traveller’s diarrhoea
-Always have access to clean water.
– Pack some oral rehydration salts along, to treat dehydration, common in traveller’s diarrhoea.
-Pack some antimotility medication (Imodium, Pepto-Bismol) to relieve diarrhoea from the pharmacy or doctor.
-Antibiotics are generally prohibited as it may lead to drug resistant bowel microorganisms. Take prescribed antibiotics only when symptoms are not improving.
-Probiotics (yogurts, kefir) boost your immunity by adding helpful bacteria to the gut, thus preventing diarrhoea.
-Unfortunately there is no specific vaccination for the traveller’s diarrhoea.
-However oral cholera vaccine (Dukoral) has been shown to reduce the risk of diarrhoea caused by the specific diarrhoea caused by bacteria E.coli.
-Dukoral vaccination is prevention measure for travellers who are at higher risk especially those who are visiting India.
*Traditional remedy for diarrhoea or vomiting:
-The usage of rice water which is very useful in calming the upset stomach. It provides hydration and some nutrients as well.
-Just boil 2 tablespoon of rice with 1 cup of water and add a pinch of salt.
It is always fun to travel around the world. At the same time, we need to be healthy in order to enjoy the moments. Be safe and do follow these tips to avoid traveller’s diarrhoea!
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