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Avoiding the Runs While on the Run

Picture this – you’re away on vacation without a care in the world. You’re enjoying the sights and sounds and basking in the delight of foreign cuisines. Suddenly, you realize that you’re spending more time in the loo than with the locals.  Traveler’s diarrhea has rudely interrupted your vacation.

No need to panic! It’s estimated that 10 million travelers develop diarrhea each year.  Some areas in the world pose a greater risk than others. These are usually developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.  There are even some people that are more susceptible than others.  Unfortunately, if you are immunosuppressed, taking H-2 blockers or antacids, have diabetes or inflammatory-bowel disease, or you’re a young adult or child – you need to be extra careful to mind your morsels.

You might be asking yourself, “How do I know if it’s traveler’s diarrhea?” In most cases the symptoms begin suddenly and result in frequent high volume bowel movements. It’s almost like someone hit the fast forward button on your GI tract. Thankfully though, the worst of it should only last 24 to 48 hours and usually resolves without treatment. Dehydration is the biggest concern.  If you are vomiting, cannot keep in enough fluids to make up for your output, become lethargic, have blood in your stools, or develop fever, seek medical attention ASAP.  Now that you’ve confirmed that you and TD are going to be bunk mates for a few days, you’re probably wondering why. Brace yourself, folks.  The primary source of TD is ingestion of food or water contaminated by fecal material. You can easily reduce your risk by avoiding raw or undercooked meats and seafood. You should also avoid foods and drinks from street vendors, food that has been sitting out on a buffet, and eating raw fruits (unless they have a thick peel) and vegetables.  Drink only things that come from a bottle you are opening yourself, or ensure that your water is boiled first.

Depending on your destination, your travel physician may give you a prescription for antibiotics to start if you develop diarrhea while travelling.  Make sure to schedule an appointment and discuss your itinerary before you depart to ensure you taking all necessary precautions.  Following these simple guidelines will help to ensure that all your travels are safe travels.


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