Travelers’ Diarrhea: It’s a Mess December 26, 2012 By admin Leave a Comment Don't let travelers' diarrhea make a mess of your next trip! Being sick is no fun, but nothing is worse than being sick on vacation! Nobody wants to spend vacation in bed, or in the bathroom, for that matter, but, unfortunately, plenty of travelers do, and about 10 million people are affected by travelers’ diarrhea each year. If you’re planning a trip abroad, understand the risk posed by TD, what it can do to you, and how you can prevent it. What is Travelers’ Diarrhea? Travelers’ diarrhea is exactly what it sounds like – it’s diarrhea that affects people traveling away from home. TD is actually the most common illness suffered by travelers, and it ruins the vacation plans of between 20% and 50% of international travelers each year. Travelers are more at risk of getting sick with travelers’ diarrhea when traveling to countries where food and water safety and hygiene are not up to the more stringent standards of North America. Parts of Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia are the global hot spots for this illness. Anyone is at risk of getting sick, but certain groups of individuals are at a higher risk of complications: young adults, people with a suppressed immune system, those with inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, and people taking H-2 blockers or antacids. Travelers’ diarrhea is commonly caused by bacteria, and, as stomach-churning as it sounds, the main source of infection is by ingesting food or water contaminated with feces. Although you may think there is no way you would ever eat something like this, remember, hygiene standards can be very different in foreign countries than what you are used to at home, and infection is a very real risk. What Are the Symptoms of Travelers’ Diarrhea? Travelers’ diarrhea can happen at any time, but most travelers get sick within the first week of their trip. Once symptoms begin, they come on abruptly, and, as the name suggests, the most notable symptom is increased stool movement. The frequency and consistency of attacks can vary greatly, and many affected travelers will find themselves making sudden bathroom stops around four to five times per day. Diarrhea is just one of the symptoms; travelers also commonly experience abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, bloating, fever, and malaise, none of which are enjoyable additions to your vacation. Luckily, many cases of travelers’ diarrhea disappear within one to two days, and around 90% of cases last no more than a week. In extreme cases, however, travelers can experience the aftereffects for up to a month. Preventing Travelers’ Diarrhea Insufficient food and water safety is the main cause of diarrhea, and hence the best prevention starts here. By being cautious and smart about what you eat and drink while traveling, you can give yourself significant and meaningful protection from travelers’ diarrhea. If possible, avoid buying food and drinks from street vendors. If a restaurant does not appear clean and hygienic to you, be sure to avoid it. Avoid eating raw and/or undercooked meats and seafood; these food groups are more likely to carry the bacteria that can cause TD, and insufficient cooking means the bacteria is not likely to have been killed off. Also, avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables, unless you have peeled them yourself. Anything that has already been peeled should be avoided. In hot weather, it is certainly nice to have ice in your beverage. Unfortunately, however, an icy cool beverage is just not a good idea. Ice is usually made from tap water and should be avoided just like drinking tap water itself. Unpasteurized milk and dairy products are also renowned for causing travelers’ diarrhea, and should be eliminated from your vacation diet. Buying bottled beverages and following the common sense tips above should help you to greatly reduce your risk of travelers’ diarrhea and result in a much more pleasant trip!