Why do many people experience diarrhea while traveling?

April 10, 2023

As living standards continue to improve and the desire for wanderlust and travel grows, an increasing number of individuals are seizing the opportunity to explore the world through vacations. A considerable proportion of these adventurers experience traveller’s diarrhoea, a condition that stems from an infection and causes significant discomfort.

Traveller’s diarrhoea is a prevalent ailment, often caused by consuming contaminated food or water while travelling in unfamiliar territories. While typically a mild and self-limiting condition, traveller’s diarrhoea can pose a significant threat to one’s travel experience, impeding plans and causing discomfort.

While viruses are the most common cause of diarrhoea in daily life, bacteria, often from contaminated water and food, are the primary culprits behind traveller’s diarrhoea.

Although traveller’s diarrhoea is generally not severe, it can be a significant inconvenience during a trip, causing discomfort and preventing individuals from enjoying the local cuisine and attractions. As a result, prevention is key.

Prevent traveller’s diarrhoea

Diarrhoea can quickly ruin a pleasant experience, making it crucial to take measures to prevent it while travelling. Here are some practical tips: 

Avoid drinking tap water or using it to brush your teeth.

When travelling, careful attention must be paid to water sources, as it is crucial to avoid drinking water of unknown origin or unboiled water. Furthermore, it is recommended to steer clear of raw or undercooked food when eating out, as well as to avoid consuming street food altogether. When eating fruits, it is advisable to peel them first, and when it comes to salads or raw vegetables, it is best to consume them in moderation. These measures can help reduce the risk of contracting traveller’s diarrhoea and ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

Prepare a travel medicine kit

Preparing a travel medicine kit is essential for managing common health issues during travel.  Do bring along a traveller’s first aid kit that includes anti-diarrheal medications and other treatments to manage symptoms.

Preventing Dehydration During Travel with Oral Rehydration Therapy

Traveler’s diarrhoea is a common risk that can lead to dehydration, which may pose significant health risks. Although diarrhoea is usually not a serious health concern, frequent episodes can be detrimental to health. Oral rehydration therapy with electrolyte solutions is a commonly used treatment for dehydration. However, it is crucial to note that the water used to prepare the oral rehydration solution should be clean and safe for consumption during travel. Including oral rehydration solutions and other essential medications in the travel medicine kit can help prevent and manage common health issues while travelling.

Avoiding unnecessary use of medication
While many people take stomach medication as a preventive measure due to their busy lifestyles, it’s important to be cautious with these medications while travelling. Most stomach medication, such as antacids or proton pump inhibitors, work by reducing stomach acid secretion. While this can provide relief for certain digestive issues, it may also create an environment that promotes the growth of harmful bacteria and worsens diarrhoea. It’s best to avoid taking unnecessary stomach medication while travelling, and instead focus on maintaining a healthy diet and hydration to prevent digestive issues. 

Observing your symptoms 

When experiencing diarrhoea, it’s important to manage it carefully. While over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications can provide relief, overusing them may worsen your condition by slowing down the digestive process and trapping harmful bacteria in your system. If you’re experiencing traveller’s diarrhoea, it may be caused by a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics. However, it’s crucial to use medication cautiously and only under the guidance of a healthcare professional. If your symptoms persist or worsen, seek medical attention immediately.

In case of illness or discomfort during travel, it’s essential to seek medical attention promptly to avoid complications. It’s important to be aware of any warning signs or symptoms of serious conditions, such as high fever, persistent vomiting or diarrhoea, chest pain, difficulty breathing, or confusion. Don’t hesitate to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms, or if your condition doesn’t improve with self-care measures. It’s also important to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, so you can get the care you need without worrying about the cost. Remember to stay vigilant about your health and take proactive measures, such as washing your hands frequently, staying hydrated, and avoiding risky behaviours that may increase your chances of getting sick.

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