I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been sick on the road. Well, I could, but you’d be totally grossed out. Let’s just say I’m pretty cautious about what I eat and drink and do what I can to avoid coming down with traveller’s diarrhea. Most of us have had first hand experience with Montezuma’s revenge and know all too well how it can wreak havoc on your holiday.
Canadians love their winter breaks and many of these trips are to countries outside North America. As much as I love my snow sports, escaping winter if only for a few days is an annual priority of mine. That’s why tropical destinations such as Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean hot spots are so popular with us Canucks. You’ve got your gorgeous weather, glistening sandy beaches, and poolside drinks – but for up to 70% of travellers, these vacation pleasures are interrupted….by travellers’ diarrhea.
The scoop on poop
Traveller’s diarrhea is the most common travel-related illness. It’s often caused by E. coli bacteria that’s transmitted by contaminated food and water. However, according to a recent survey, most Canadians don’t realize the potential causes, symptoms and risks of contracting E. coli infections while on vacation.
Tips to avoid traveller’s diarrhea
The Canadian government recommends consulting a healthcare provider six weeks before you travel, including discussing prevention and treatment options for travellers’ diarrhea. You may also need some vaccines you never thought of, so as soon as you book your trip, book in with your GP.
Besides my doctor, I also chat up my local pharmacist about treatment options before tropical trips. This is especially beneficial if you’re pressed for time. One cool product I’ve recently come across is DUKORAL. It’s available without a prescription and is the only drinkable vaccine that protects against travellers’ diarrhea. Even at $100, it’s worth not losing any vacation days. Plus, if you have a plan you may be covered – you may need a prescription but it’s worth checking. You take the first dose at least two weeks before departure and it offers approximately three months of protection. Score!
The main sources of E. coli include undercooked meat or fish, fresh salads, raw vegetables, unpeeled fruit, cold sauces and untreated water or ice cubes. I met a dude in India whose friend just died from eating an apple. Well, not exactly the apple, but because he didn’t peel it, he died of acute electrode imbalance. Scary stuff, man!
Trouble is, no food group should ever be regarded as safe. Contamination can occur during preparation (did the cook properly was their hands?) or when food is left at room temperature, and we all know how often that happens at all inclusive resorts.
Drink lots of fluids
The most important treatment for travellers’ diarrhea is rehydration. Bottled water is best, but you gotta make sure the bottle is factory-sealed to guarantee it’s safe to drink.
What to do if you get traveller’s diarrhea?
Go ahead and pack electrolyte powders, probiotics, and extra undies, but realize it’s far better to take preventive measures. One in five of us who get traveller’s diarrhea are bed-ridden for an entire day, and the symptoms can last up to seven days!! How crappy is that?
Where’s the worst place you ever experienced traveller’s diarrhea? (For me it was on a 26-hour bus trip across China’s Gobi dessert. Good times…not!)