What is Travelers’ Diarrhea?
Travelers’ diarrhea is the most common health problem facing travelers’ to less developed countries – up to 50% of people travelling to high risk destinations may experience travelers’ diarrhea.
Travelers’ Diarrhea Definition: Three or more loose bowel actions with at least one of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps or pain, fever or blood in the stool.
- The World Health Organization identifies DEHYDRATION as the most severe threat posed by travelers’ diarrhea.
- It is the loss of fluid through vomiting, diarrhea and fever that can lead to dehydration.
- Most cases of travelers’ diarrhea will last for 3–7 days and can ruin any vacation.
Common colloquial names for travelers’ diarrhea include: Stomach Flu, Delhi Belly, Rangoon Runs, Tourist, The Runs, The Trots or Montezuma’s Revenge.
See what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has to say about travelers’ diarrhea and how you should prepare for your holiday:
High risk destinations for travelers’ diarrhea
Common Causes of Travelers’ Diarrhea
Most cases of travelers’ diarrhea result from:
- Ingesting contaminated food or water.
- Bacterial pathogens such as E. coli, Campylobacter, Shigella, Salmonella.
- Viral and parasitic agents are much less common
Management of Travelers’ Diarrhea
Fact: Dehydration is the biggest health risk associated with travelers’ diarrhea.
Common symptoms of dehydration include:
- Increased thirst
- Fatigue / Lethargy
- Dark yellow urine, or decreased urine output
- Sticky or dry mouth
- Loss of skin elasticity
Rehydration is the most important aspect of managing travelers’ diarrhea.
- The ideal fluid is a preparation of an oral rehydration solution (Hydralyte) mixed in clean bottled water.
- Limit the intake of high sugar based drinks (e.g. soda or sports drinks, diluted cordial or flat lemonade).
- Aim to drink at least 2.1 – 3.2 QT (2–3 L) of fluid a day. Refer to dosage instructions on pack for Hydralyte.
- If hungry, eat dry starchy foods e.g. dry toast, crackers.
Important: You cannot give anti-diarrhea medication to children under 12 years of age.
Anti-diarrhea medication does NOT replace lost fluid and electrolytes and only provides symptomatic relief.
Who is Most at Risk?
The World Health Organization identified health risks associated with travel are greater for certain groups of travelers, including:
- Infants and young children
- Pregnant women
- The disabled
- The immunocompromised
- Those who have pre-existing health problems
Tips to Avoid Travelers’ Diarrhea
- Practice good hygiene
- Drink boiled or bottled water and avoid ice
- Avoid eating raw foods
- Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it!
- Wash your hands!