7th July 2016 | Author:
One of the biggest health concerns for travellers is diarrhoea.
Every year, thousands of travellers suffer a bout whilst many miles from home – with little option but to put up with it.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent traveller’s diarrhoea, and treatments available to take away with you, if you’re planning a trip.
Prevention’s always preferable to cure: Antibiotics works by fighting the bugs that cause diarrhoea, helping to shorten and reduce the severity of a bout.
Between 30% and 80% of travellers in developing countries will experience diarrhoea at some point during their journey. It’s most likely to happen at the start of a trip – and usually lasts just under a week. It’s normally new and contaminated food and drink that are to blame.
The tell-tale symptoms include passing more than three watery stools a day, combined with abdominal pain or cramping sensations, a feeling of nausea, and actual nausea.
Several groups are more at risk of complications from traveller’s diarrhoea. These include young children and babies, the elderly, people with immune system conditions, heart disease, kidney disease or type 1 diabetes, people with stomach ulcers and people with Crohn’s.
It’s really important to stay hydrated, as you lose a lot of water during a bout of traveller’s diarrhoea.
Key signs of dehydration include dry skin, sunken eyes, insatiable thirst, restlessness and irritability. In severe cases, you should consult a doctor, especially if combined with a high temperature, repeated nausea or more than a week of symptoms.
There are some things you can do to prepare before going away to help stave off a bout of diarrhoea.
The NHS website has loads of health advice about popular destinations, with things to look out for and information about medical services. You can also find out about required vaccines for certain areas and countries. If you’re planning a long trip, it’s worth consulting a GP.
Whilst away, be careful with what you eat and drink. Only drink water you’re sure is clean – boil it for several minutes to kill bacteria if you’re unsure. Avoid ice in your drink – this is a risk. If you need to cool a drink, leave it in a bucket of ice, rather than adding ice to the liquid.
Pasteurised milk will be safe: if your milk isn’t pasteurised, you can boil it to be sure. Tea, coffee, beer and wine will usually be safe: but don’t opt for cheap replicas of established brands as these are more likely to contain something dodgy.
Always cook food til it is piping hot, and avoid eating leftovers, especially the next morning.
Fish and shellfish can be particularly hazardous, as can fried rice. If you’re buying from a market, opt for stuff to cook yourself – ready-cooked foods may have been left to cool and reheated, which can cause bacteria to multiply.
Peel all fruit and avoid fruit juices as you can’t verify that the ingredients are fresh and clean.
If you do get diarrhoea, it’s important to take steps to prevent it becoming severe. Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after eating or visiting the bathroom, dry them on a clean towel or in the air. Avoid preparing any food if you can – others can do this til the infection is gone.
Keep your fingernails short so they don’t collect grime and germs, and take a handful of antiseptic lotions and wipes to help kill bacteria on your skin.