No one likes to travel with a roll of toilet paper in their purse! However, it is also true that as many as 60% of travelers suffer from acute diarrhea owing to ingestion of foreign bacteria and viruses. In most cases, taking travelers’ diarrhea prevention medication can prevent spoiling of one’s vacation/travel but in a few cases, even these do not work. Thankfully, there are certain tried and tested easy ways to prevent and treat travelers diarrhea. Let us take a look:
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1. Wash your hands frequently
Acute diarrhea in travelers is mostly caused due to low hygiene standards. Washing hands frequently can help prevent germs from gong inside your stomach. Carry a bottle of waterless hand sanitizer in case there is no soap available.
2. Eat only well-cooked food
This one is a no brainer. Travelers need to remember the old adage: ‘Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it’. If you are unsure of the source of food, it is best to stay away from it. Choose to eat at establishments that have a reputation for serving safe food and drink. Drink only packaged bottled, mineral water. If possible, boil tap water before consumption to kill microbes. Here is a list of food safe for consumption in most cases:
- Dry items like bread
- Cooked food which is steaming when served
- Bottled carbonated beverages with acidic ph- Do not use ice in drinks.
- Coffee and tea boiled to at least 70 C when bought
- Water boiled and stored properly.
- Eat meat only when it is well cooked and has no pink parts.
- Canned foods- be careful if past expiry
3. Avoid high risk foods
It is best to avoid following foods that increase risk of travelers diarrhea:
- Shellfish, sushi and raw fish
- Raw and uncooked eggs
- Street food
- Salads- raw, uncooked vegetables may be handled by many people or could be washed with contaminated water
- Aquatic plants
- Beef, pork, fish.
- Unpasteurized dairy products, unpasteurized apple juice
- Buffet food, except in cruises and first class resorts.
4. Use probiotics
Probiotics are known to help prevent traveler’s diarrhea but their ability to do so depends on the strain used, the traveler’s destination and which microbes may cause the diarrhea. L.rhamnosus and S. boulardii have been shown in many double blind controlled trials to offer prevention against acute diarrhea commonly picked u when traveling. Talk to your doctor about using probiotic supplements that could safeguard you.
5. Avoid brushing teeth with tap water
This is especially true in case of travel in less developed countries. Use boiled or packaged bottle water for rinsing your mouth.
6. Use water treatment methods
It is safest to consume water after boiling it for 3-4 minutes then cooling it to room temperature. Make sure you also store the water in a safe, covered container. Another method is to add iodine or chlorine to water before consumption. (Limit use of iodine if pregnant). For chlorination, add 4-6% bleach at the rate of 2 drops per 1 liter of tap water that is not cloudy.
7. Carry medicines for treating travelers diarrhea
If all above precautions fail and you do get runny stools with stomach cramps, keep some medicines handy. For mild cases, take Imodium, Pepto Bismol or Lomotil. For severe you will need antibiotics; take 500 mg Cipro every 12 hours for 1-3 days or until symptoms are resolved. Alternatively, take Zithromycin 500 mg for one day or 250 mg for 4 days (5 tablets total).
Related: Ways to Stay Healthy When Traveling
8. Take ORS
It is very important to prevent dehydration when suffering from travelers diarrhea. To make oral rehydration salts use the following recipe: to 8 ounce of clean drinking water, add ¼ tsp baking soda. Make sure to drink packaged orange or apple juice from reputed companies. Also drink plenty of bottled fluids. Broths, soups and hot tea or coffee with sugar can also help. Eat saltine crackers, bananas, toast and rice to keep up the strength.
Follow the above methods to keep yourself safe and healthy the next time you travel.