WHAT IS TRAVELER’S DIARRHEA?
Traveler’s diarrhea, also called tourista , is an infection akin to gastroenteritis. It afflicts people traveling to countries with lower levels of food or water hygiene. Several bacteria can be responsible for traveler’s diarrhea. More rarely, infection with a virus or parasite may be the cause. Bacteria are mainly transmitted to humans through water or contaminated food, or through contact with an infected person.
If you are afflicted with traveler’s diarrhea during your vacation, you may experience the following symptoms:
- abdominal cramps;
- nausea and vomiting;
- feeling of general malaise;
- signs of dehydration.
The symptoms usually disappear within a few days.
Although all destinations are risky, the places where it is highest are Central and South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
PREVENTION: THE BEST STRATEGY
The best way to avoid the inconvenience of traveler’s diarrhea during your vacation is to put some preventive measures in place. In fact, the goal of the exercise is to avoid contact with water or contaminated food. Here are some examples of precautionary measures:
- Use only bottled water or cooled boiled water to drink, cook or brush your teeth. Do not use tap water except for washing.
- Avoid bathing or washing clothes in polluted water.
- Wash your hands with soapy water before eating.
- Avoid buying food from street kiosks.
- Refrain from eating or drinking in an establishment whose level of cleanliness seems doubtful.
- Avoid fish, seafood or raw meats.
- Peel your fruits.
- Be careful of fruits and vegetables that can not be peeled, such as salad.
- Avoid close contact with an infected person.
Two products can be taken in anticipation of a trip to reduce the risk of traveler’s diarrhea:
- The vaccine against traveler’s diarrhea . This is a vaccine that is taken orally, two doses a week apart. For maximum effectiveness, the second dose should be taken at least one week before departure; so do not wait until the last minute. The vaccine prevents traveler’s diarrhea in just over one in five people. For more information about the vaccine, and to find out if it might benefit you, talk to your pharmacist.
- Probiotics. According to some clinical studies, taking probiotics before going to a risk zone improves digestive health and reduces the incidence and severity of traveler’s diarrhea. You can continue to take the probiotics throughout the stay. Although further studies are needed to confirm efficacy in this context, probiotics intake is considered generally safe. However, probiotics may harm some people, such as those with weakened immune systems. Ask your pharmacist for advice on choosing a product that may be right for you.
TREATMENT OF TRAVELER’S DIARRHEA
If despite all your precautions, traveler’s diarrhea has decided to attack you, you can treat yourself with an antibiotic. You will need to take this medicine only a few days. It is necessary to consult a doctor before your departure because such treatment requires a prescription. Antibiotic treatment decreases the intensity and duration of the disease and the symptoms associated with it. It is recommended to start treatment when you have at least 3 unformed stools in 24h, with or without one of the symptoms listed earlier in the article. You must also finish it, even if you feel better after a few days.
Here are some tips for taking an antibiotic for traveler’s diarrhea:
- Take it while eating unless you tell the pharmacist otherwise.
- Ask your pharmacist if:
- you should space the antibiotic and certain medications or foods (eg, dairy products);
- the antibiotic can increase the sensitivity of your skin to the sun’s rays;
- any other precaution must be taken into account.
Some people may want to use a medicine called antiperistaltic to help relieve cramps and diarrhea more quickly. These medications (eg, loperamide) are agents that slow down the movement of the bowel and increase stool consistency. They can be used for a short time and you can get them without a prescription at the pharmacy. However, it should not be used if you have fever accompanying diarrhea or if there is mucus or blood in the stool. Ask your pharmacist for advice for optimal use.
Who says diarrhea, says dehydration. You should get a rehydration solution available from the pharmacy before you go. Such solutions are available as a ready-to-drink powder or liquid. As soon as the symptoms of diarrhea are present, you need to take a lot of fluid so you do not get dehydrated. Ask your pharmacist to help you choose a product and tell you how to use it.
If you experience signs of dehydration (intense thirst, dryness of the mouth or mucous membranes, more concentrated urine, etc.), do not delay in consulting a doctor. Do the same if you notice the following symptoms:
- diarrhea very abundant (more than 10 stools a day) that persists more than 48 hours;
- high fever;
- blood in stool;
- severe abdominal pain;
- significant alteration of the general condition.
Remember that a consultation with your pharmacist before your trip will allow you to be better equipped to deal with various problems that may occur abroad, including traveler’s diarrhea. Because a carefree holiday is priceless!