Nothing brings a vacation to a screeching halt faster than a travel-borne stomach illness. Both the stress of traveling and changes to your regular diet play havoc on your digestive system and can bring on a myriad of stomach-related issues. Let’s explore some simple steps you can take to avoid travel stomach and arm you with proven tips to treat digestive problems if they do hit.
When you travel to places where the climate or hygienic practices are not what your body is used to, or you want to sample the local cuisine, you have an increased risk of developing unpleasant digestive issues. As part of trip planning, the CDC encourages travelers to create a travel health kit for common medical emergencies. You should pack it in your carry-on bag and keep it with you all of the time. When it comes to traveler’s stomach, these items include oral rehydration salts for fluid replacement and OTC medications like Pepto Bismol or Imodium. You should also consult a doctor before your trip to get a prescription for an antibiotic you can take in case of diarrhea. Make sure you get guidance on when you should and should not take the medication. It could do more harm than good. You can also buy a travel-ready first-aid kit from Amazon for about $15 if you don't want to build one from scratch.
Some peoples get a traveler’s tummy because of the stress of the trip or a change in their routine or diet. But the most common culprit comes from an infectious agent like bacteria or parasites ingested after eating tainted food or drinking water. You can’t take your cue from locals who eat and drink because they have become accustomed to the bacteria and have built up an immunity to them.
How to Avoid Traveler's Stomach
There are simple ways to prevent traveler's tummy. The best way is to avoid exposure to the germs that cause this buzzkill of an illness. Here are some tips from the CDC and WHO that will help you avoid traveler's stomach all together:
· Drink only beverages from sealed containers and pour them into a clean glass.
· Don’t use ice cubes unless you can trust they came from clean water.
· Only eat foods that are fully cooked and served hot.
· Eat raw fruits and vegetables only if you can wash and peel them.
· Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, including ice cream.
· Wash your hands religiously with soap and water. If you can’t, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
· Keep your hands away from your mouth, eyes, and nose. This also helps you from getting a cold or the flu.
· Live by this mantra—hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Even if you faithfully follow the steps to avoid digestive issues, you may still come down with the traveler’s stomach. It usually starts with a sudden attack of diarrhea with cramps, nausea, and/or vomiting (you may or may not have a fever). In most cases, it clears up on its own in a couple of days. Once you have identified your symptoms as a traveler’s stomach, you’ll need to replace the massive amounts of fluid and electrolytes you lost.
Staying hydrated is a crucial part of staying healthy while treating your stomach issues. Taking the anti-motility agents can help cut down on the trips to the bathroom, but they can also aggravate your feelings of dehydration, so again (it can’t be stressed enough), drinking loads of water is key to treating traveler’s tummy.
Here are the essential steps in treating traveler’s diarrhea:
· Replace fluids with water and by using an oral rehydration solution. Avoid caffeinated drinks as well as alcohol.
· Take over the counter anti-motility drugs (the most common are Pepto Bismol and Imodium)
· Ensure you’re rested. Being stronger helps you battle any digestive issues. Taking a magnesium glycinate supplement can improve jet lag and promote relaxation and sleep while traveling.
· If recommended by a health care provider, take a regimen of antibiotics. Two common medicines are ciprofloxacin and norfloxacin.
Following this treatment advice can help resolve symptoms within just a few days, so you can get back to enjoying your trip.
When to Seek Medical Help
If your condition is accompanied by a fever or tiredness or diarrhea persists for more than a couple of days, you might want to get some medical attention. Here are signs that you need to see a medical professional:
· You can’t keep down light foods or liquids and have frequent vomiting.
· Your symptoms linger for more than 48 hours.
· You have a fever of over 102 F.
· You have severe abdominal pain.
· You have blood or mucus in your stool.
Note: This article offers only information and is not a substitute for the advice of a medical professional. If in doubt, always err on the side of caution.