Dealing with traveller’s diarrhoea

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Most people love to travel from time to time to enjoy new experiences, visit friends or family, or simply relax. While at it, we often consume food or snacks on the way to keep hunger at bay, especially if the journey is long. We may also eat food that is not familiar to us or live in places where food hygiene is not guaranteed. Un-hygienically prepared food and untreated water are the major causes of traveler’s diarrhoea, an infection that can make your travel most uncomfortable and keep you in bed for days.

BASIC FACTS…

Traveler’s diarrhoea (TD) is a stomach and intestine (gastrointestinal) illness that often causes one to pass loose stool and also experience abdominal pain. It affects all kinds of travelers though it is more prone among young adult travelers, people with weak immune systems, inflammatory bowel

disease or diabetes, or those taking anti-acids. Often it occurs within the first week of travel though it may also occur at any period during your travel. The traveler’s destination is the most important determinant of the risk. When it occurs, it may last for three to seven days and is rarely life threatening. The disease is rarely fatal and does not require professional medical care and is treatable within a few days.

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES?

Unhygienic handling of food is the major cause of traveler’s diarrhoea. Those handling food or drinking water can transmit infection to those who consume the food if they do not clean their hands well before and during handling food. Traveler’s diarrhoea is an intestinal infection that is caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites that are passed on through the consumption of contaminated food or water.

SYMPTOMS TO LOOK OUT FOR…

  • Sudden onset of diarrhoea.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Fever.
  • Bloody stools.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Urgent need to have bowel movement.

PREVENTIVE MEASURES TO TAKE…

  • Avoid eating foods or drinks that have been bought from street vendors or establishments where there are unhygienic conditions.
  • Always drink boiled or bottled beverages when traveling.
  • Avoid eating meat and seafood that are raw or uncooked.
  • Avoid eating raw vegetables including salads.
  • Eat only fruits you have peeled yourself.
  • Invest in a bottle of sanitizer to clean your hands as it may be difficult to find water and soap.

WHAT’S THE TREATMENT?

There is need to take lots of fluids because the body looses a lot of water through diarrhoea or vomiting. Some over the counter medications are equally useful to help control bowel movements. However, you should not use these medications if you notice blood traces in your stool or have high fever. It is also wise to discuss possibilities of traveler’s diarrhoea with a doctor before traveling and take along a supply of over-the-counter medication, as well as oral rehydration salts to be used as needed.

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