Archive for the ‘Health Concerns’ Category

Traveler’s diarrhea prevention and treatment

02 Feb

prevent and treat traveler's diarrhea

Traveler’s Diarrhea: Prevention and Treatment

The dreaded travelers’ diarrhea can put a big damper on any trip, but don’t worry, there is a lot you can do to prevent it. Your risk of getting sick while traveling can be greatly reduced by being careful what you eat and being aware of how the food is prepared and handled.

If you aren’t used to spicy food, but you want to try some local specialties, ease in! Experiencing local cuisine is a wonderful element of traveling abroad and not to be missed. Realize, however, that the stomach needs time to adjust to radical changes in diet, and may react violently if thrown outside its comfort zone too suddenly!

Take note of your surroundings. If everything around you is filthy, or you see raw meat sitting out, or the same hands that handle money are touching your food, you would be wise to find somewhere else to eat. Avoiding salads and any other raw vegetables or fruit, unless it has a thick peel or shell. Any cooked food which sits out for a long period of time carries the danger of bacteria. A good rule of thumb is, if it is prepared cold and meant to be eaten cold, it should be stored cold. Likewise with hot food: if it is meant to be eaten hot, it should be kept hot. If something is pre-prepared and you don’t know how long it has been sitting there, you’re much better off ordering something that has to be prepared for you fresh, and even better, in front of you.

Rehydration and Recovery

Dehydration resulting from diarrhea can be life threatening. It is essential to replace lost fluids immediately. Carrot soup, rice water, gruel, fruit juice, green coconut water and weak tea are all good things to consume to help restore fluids. Alternatively, or additionally, you can buy or make rehydration fluids.
Here is a simple rehydration solution that you can make anywhere that can literally save your life.

Rehydration Solution

  • one teaspoon salt
  • eight teaspoons sugar
  • one liter of clean fresh, or boiled and cooled, drinking water

Stir all together until sugar and salt are dissolved. Molasses or cane sugar are good substitutes for white sugar if available.

Once you begin eating again, be gentle on the stomach. Avoid spicy and greasy foods. The BRAT diet of Bananas, Rice, Apples and Toast is easy on the stomach while also helping to absorb and flush away and remaining unfriendly bits.


Health: special concerns for travelers

30 Aug


Seeing a doctor who specializes in travel medicine is one of the most important things you absolutely must do before high-tailing it overseas. Obviously we want to be healthy and take care of ourselves all of the time, but when you are far away from home, it becomes doubly important to take preventive measures. When you get sick on the road, not only does it put a damper on your holiday, but depending where you are, high quality medical care may not be so readily available. Also, it’s much more difficult to explain what hurts and how when you have to resort to pointing and miming. While it can be quite entertaining to practice your primitive communication skills, its best to do some preventative medicine and save the pointing and hand signs for a party or a bar. Or even better, when you’re in a restaurant trying to order your dinner.

Certain countries have very high risk for certain diseases, partly due to climate and often due to local hygiene standards. Hepatitis A and B vaccinations are highly recommended regardless of your destination. Both are highly contagious; Hepatitis A can be contracted from a handshake, sweat or improperly handled raw food.

Be aware that certain countries will not allow you to enter without proof of certain vaccines. For example, Senegal, Brazil and India require proof of Yellow Fever vaccination. There is no negotiation on this matter; if you don’t have it, you can’t board the plane. Certainly it wouldn’t be your most shining moment! Do your research to find out if Yellow Fever is required, because clinics often don’t have it on hand. In this regard, planning ahead is crucial. World Health Organization has a wealth of information on epidemics and issues around the world. However, if you want to get straight to the countries you are traveling to, there is an interactive world map with vaccination and disease details by country. Another excellent resource is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which has heaps of information for travelers.

Drinking the Water (or Not!)

Find out if the tap water is safe to drink, (a guidebook or fellow traveler will tell you), and act accordingly. Don’t assume that water which appears unrequested on your table is bottled. Be sure that you are breaking the seal on bottled water; if not, it may be refilled. It is a good idea to crush water bottles after you finish them to prevent unscrupulous entrepreneurs from reusing them.

Be aware that fruit juices and other beverages may be prepared with tap water or dirty ice. Ask, and if you’re still not sure, skip it. Raw vegetables and fruits may also be rinsed in tap water and are best avoided. Some people will go as far as to brush their teeth with tap water, although another more relaxed viewpoint says that the negligible amount of water that enters your system when you brush your teeth could actually give your immune system a little booster against the local bacteria.

If there is no bottled water available, you can treat water yourself with iodine or by boiling for one minute (three minutes at high altitudes) and then allowing it to cool.

Note: Do NOT add ice.

Read about traveler’s diarrhea prevention and treatment.