What is Travelers’ Diarrhea?
Travelers’ Diarrhea can be classified as 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. Most cases of travelers’ diarrhea usually last for 3-7 days, enough to ruin any vacation. T he 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.
Travelers’ diarrhea is the most common health problem facing travelers’ to less developed countries – up to 50% of people traveling to high risk destinations may experience travelers’ diarrhea. Some of these high-risk areas include Africa, Latin America, and Asia to name a few.
Traveler’s diarrhea is commonly caused by consuming some form of contaminated food or water. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests only eating foods that have been cooked and served hot. Avoid foods that have been sitting out for a long time (i.e. Buffets). Common colloquial names for travelers’ diarrhea include: Stomach Flu, Delhi Belly, Rangoon Runs, Tourist, The Runs, The Trots or Montezuma’s Revenge.
To See what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has to say about travelers’ diarrhea and how you should prepare for your vacation:
High risk destinations for travelers’ diarrhea
Traveler’s diarrhea is a common occurrence in many high-risk areas. These areas include Africa, South America, and parts of Asia.
If you are preparing to travel to one of these locations, we suggest following some of the guidelines set by the CDC to safe guard against or avoid travelers’ diarrhea.
What Causes Travelers’ Diarrhea?
Most cases of travelers’ diarrhea result from:
- Ingesting contaminated food or water.
- Bacterial pathogens such as coli, Campylobacter, Shigella, Salmonella. These are all bacteria’s that can be found in the drinking water, in many of these high-risk areas. Fruits and vegetables are often washed with this same water.
- Viral and parasitic agents, however they are less common.
How to Manage the Symptoms of Dehydrated caused by Travelers’ Diarrhea
Dehydration happens to be the biggest health risk associated with travelers’ diarrhea. While you cannot not ‘cure’ diarrhea, you can manage the symptoms of dehydration.
Common signs and symptoms of dehydration include:
- Increased thirst
- Fatigue / Lethargy
- Dark yellow urine, or decreased urine output
- Sticky or dry mouth
- Loss of skin elasticity
Read More about the signs and symptoms of dehydration.
Rehydration is the most important aspect of managing travelers’ diarrhea. Because travelers diarrhea can lead to dehydration, staying hydrated is essential.
- The ideal fluid is a preparation of an oral rehydration solution (Hydralyte) mixed in clean bottled water.
- Avoid high sugar drinks (e.g. soda or sports drinks, diluted cordial or flat lemonade) – excess sugar can interfere with the rehydration process.
- Aim to drink at least 2.1 – 3.2 QT (2–3 L) of fluid a day. Refer to directions of use on pack when drinking 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 at Risk for Travelers’ Diarrhea?
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!