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Traveler’s diarrhea

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Have you ever gotten sick while vacationing on some exotic island? Or maybe you were unfortunate enough to get abdominal cramps when you went on a business trip somewhere? Or maybe you got a bad case of diarrhea right when you were starting your holiday. Don’t fret over the cause of your ruined vacation; it’s nothing serious, probably just a case of simple traveler’s diarrhea. Getting sick when you leave the comforts of home is your body’s way of telling you that it’s not adjusting very well to the change in environment. Many factors can affect the body like climate, food, and even the bacteria in that specific country can trigger traveler’s diarrhea.

TRAVELER'S DIARRHEA SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Traveling doesn’t guarantee traveler’s diarrhea but if the country you’re traveling to has radically different sanitary conditions and climate then you’re more likely to get traveler’s diarrhea. Some countries where there is a bigger risk of traveler’s diarrhea are: Africa, Middle East, Asia, some Caribbean islands and Latin America. You know you have traveler’s diarrhea when you have these symptoms: loose bowel movements, averaging 5-6 bowel movements a day, abdominal cramps, fever, vomiting, bloating, and nausea. In some extreme cases you may get dehydrated, or you may have blood in your stool. This diarrhea becomes dangerous if it lasts more that 3-4 days, so if it goes on for that long you should see a doctor immediately.
Travelers Diarrhea
Image: Travelers diarrhea

TRAVELER'S DIARRHEA CAUSES

Sometimes stress or the radical change of diet is to blame for traveler’s diarrhea but usually traveler’s diarrhea is caught through infectious agents that are ingested. Any traveler should be careful of food and drink while abroad. Foreign bacteria, viruses or parasites usually overcome your body’s defenses. One of the most common bacteria is enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli or ETEC, which usually comes from tropical places. This bacteria affects your intestines, and although it is gone in a few days you should still do all you can to prevent yourself from getting sick. You aren’t used to these bacteria like the local populace is so you get sick from them. Usually the people who live in that country have been exposed to those sorts of bacteria and germs so they have become immune.

TRAVELER'S DIARRHEA TREATMENT

The usual medications used for traveler’s diarrhea are over the counter drugs like Pepto-Bismol, which has Bismuth subsalicylate as an active ingredient. This lessens the time period of the diarrhea and the disease. Anti-motility agents like Imodium and Lomotil reduce the spasms in your intestines to allow your body more time to absorb and digest. This isn’t recommended with people with bloody stool because bloody stool means an infectious agent is in your body and you need to pass that bacteria or parasite as soon as possible. Anti-motility slows down the bowel movements, so you shouldn’t take it when you need to release and clear your body of infectious organisms. Even if you don’t treat traveler’s diarrhea it goes away in 3-4 days. For more severe cases the doctors can prescribe a few days course of antibiotics just to be on the safe side.

TRAVELER'S DIARRHEA PREVENTION

To prevent traveler’s diarrhea there are simple rules you should go by. First is to stay away from street vendors. Often the food sold on the street isn’t properly handled and it is exposed to the elements so it has a greater risk of having bacteria and parasites. The second rule is to eat foods that are hot and cooked well so you’re sure that there is little or no bacteria on the food. For snacks try to eat dry and preserved food; although they have slightly more fat than fresh fruit these dry foods are practically germ-free. The fruit that you can’t peel such as grapes and berries might have chemicals on them or some local bacteria that you might catch, don’t take a chance. Peel fruit yourself or don’t eat any. Try to drink bottled water at all times and if you can’t make sure to boil your water first. And also avoid swimming near tepid water because bacteria and parasites grow there. Be careful of juice mix and ice cubes made with tap water, and always ask about the quality of water you are consuming.

When the diarrhea has cleared up you should drink plenty of water to replace the fluids lost. Pregnant women and children get dehydrated easily and they should drink lost of clean water. Actually pregnant women and children shouldn’t take any medication for traveler’s diarrhea because it gets them more dehydrated, and that is more dangerous than diarrhea.
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