You arrive at your vacation destination and marvel at your beautiful surroundings, the great hotel, and the magnificent scenery. Uh oh! You forgot to mention the annoying case of traveler’s diarrhea you’ve just developed. If you have traveler’s diarrhea, you’re in good company! It affects around 30% of all travelers and is the most common travel related illness. If you develop this annoying and sometimes debilitating illness, what should you do? What’s the best treatment for traveler’s diarrhea?
Traveler’s diarrhea is caused by infection with a bacteria in most cases, usually a a form of E.Coli.. When these bacteria attach to the intestinal lining, they release a toxin that results in diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, bloating, and even vomiting and fever in more severe cases. These are ertainly not the most pleasant symptoms to experience on the trip of a lifetime!
If you develop traveler’s diarrhea, it’s reassuring to know the symptoms will usually subside in approximately 2 days. The most important treatment for traveler’s diarrhea is to maintain good hydration by drinking lots of clear liquids. This will help to replace fluids lost through the diarrhea and vomiting. If symptoms are severe, your doctor may consider putting you on a short course of antibiotics to shorten the course of your illness.
Should you use over the counter anti diarrheal medications? There’s some controversy regarding this practice since certain medications used to treat diarrhea can slow down elimination of the bacteria causing the traveler’s diarrhea in the first place. This can prolong your illness and increase your risk of complications.There are cases of serious health consequences stemming from use of over the counter diarrhea medications for treatment of traveler’s diarrhea. I would advise against taking over the counter anti-diarrhea pills without the consent of your doctor.
Even better than traveler’s diarrhea treatment is the prospect of preventing this brief illness.Precautions you can take to prevent traveler’s diarrhea is to avoid eating undercooked and raw foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. Be wary of the food offered by street vendors and consider drinking canned drinks and avoiding tap water. Even though antibiotics taken as prevention against traveler’s diarrhea are effective, they aren’t recommended. Why is this so?
Prophylactic antibiotics can increase the risk of developing an antibiotic resistant form of traveler’s diarrhea and may increase your risk of complications if you develop the illness despite prophylaxis. One preventative measure that’s been shown to be effective is the use of bismuth subsalicylate, which is just a fancy name for Pepto Bismol you get at your drug store. Be sure to avoid using this over the counter medication if you’re pregnant or are taking aspirin or other medications.It’s best to clear this with your doctor prior to starting this therapy or any other.
Now that you know the treatment for traveler’s diarrhea and know what steps to take to reduce your risk, you can enjoy a safe and pleasant vacation!