A sudden and urgent need to move your bowels; sudden onset of diarrhea with three or more loose stools in a day; and nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps – and all during your travels or shortly after arriving at home. If these sound familiar, then you were probably afflicted with traveler’s diarrhea!
Just as its name implies, it isn’t something that you will want to be afflicted with on your trips, whether you’re on a business trip or a leisurely vacation. Here’s what you can do in preventing traveler’s diarrhea for you and your family.
Watch What You Eat
While your stomach may only be getting accustomed to the new dishes and desserts in a foreign country, you’re more likely to have picked up bacteria with the food. You must then watch what you eat even when you’re tempted to follow the adage about learning a new culture via its cuisine.
Here are a few tips that will reduce your risk of becoming sick with traveler’s diarrhea yet still enjoy the country’s cuisine:
- Avoid eating food sold by street vendors since their sanitary practices aren’t exactly up to par.
- Avoid eating raw and undercooked meat, fish and shellfish – unless, you’re in Japan with its stringent food standards.
- Avoid unpasteurized (i.e., fresh) dairy products including milk, ice cream, and the like, especially the ones from unfamiliar brands and sellers.
- Avoid moist food, usually the ones with sauces and stews, especially in buffets.
- Stick to well-cooked foods, preferably the ones served hot.
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables that you can wash, peel and slice yourself. Examples include oranges, avocados, and bananas.
- Don’t drink water from the tap, as well as from streams and wells. Buy sealed bottled water instead but if there’s no choice, boil the local water for at least 5 minutes to kill the bacteria. Wipe the bottle’s mouth and neck to remove any accumulated grime.
- Don’t consume products made from local water, if possible, such as mixed fruits and ice cubes.
But it doesn’t just apply to drinking large quantities of food and water. You should also avoid swimming in contaminated waters and using it to brush your teeth, among others.
Know Where to Go
You may still get traveler’s diarrhea even with your vigilance because, well, life can be unfair. In this case, you shouldn’t panic because it isn’t life-threatening although its symptoms can be unpleasant.
Your first step is to seek medical treatment from a qualified doctor; ask your hotel’s receptionist for recommendations, if needed. You may be prescribed antibiotics, such as Bactrim, to fight off the infection.
The next time you travel to another country, you will have learned your lesson about plunging in to a new culinary culture without thinking about food safety.