Don’t Let Stomach Troubles Ruin Your Vacation

Travelling? Prepare yourself before departure with these tips to ensure an enjoyable and relaxing trip.

Many of us are all too familiar with this scenario: a few days of sun, sand, surf – and great food – and all of a sudden, bloating and frequent trips to the bathroom start to ruin an otherwise enjoyable trip.   Diagnosis? A miserable case of travellers’ diarrhea, which affects an estimated 20 to 50 per cent of all travellers.

Travellers’ diarrhea is typically caused by bacteria or parasites from contaminated water or food such as chicken and raw seafood.  These unwanted tag-along travellers can cause you to visit the local washroom facilities far more frequently than the local tourist sites.  But the good news is, it is possible to treat your symptoms and enjoy your vacation – the key is being prepared before you leave home.

“If you don’t have a fever, bloody diarrhea or severe cramps, you can treat your symptoms at home – or away – with lots of fluids and anti-motility drugs like Imodium,” says Dr. Habal, Gastroenterologist and Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto.  “A lot of my patients get confused thinking that medication will just prolong the infection, but that’s just not the case.  Especially when you’re travelling, the symptomatic relief will prevent you from running to the bathroom all the time, so you’ll function better, prevent dehydration – and enjoy your vacation again.”

Dr. Habal provides the following tips to prevent traveller’s diarrhea:

Stay hydrated – Drink lots of bottled water throughout the day and especially when you’re travelling.

Watch what you eat – You may be on vacation, but while you’re indulging, be careful with your food choices.  Avoid peeled fruit and undercooked food, tap water (including ice cubes), and unpasteurized dairy products. The safest beverages are bottled carbonated soft drinks, beer, wine, hot tea or coffee, and properly boiled water (boiled for at least 20 minutes).

If you do end up with traveller’s diarrhea – Stay away from dairy products and alcohol because these can aggravate the condition. It is also important to stay hydrated with, for example, bottled water and electrolyte replacement drinks.  Anti-motility drugs such as Imodium can not only offer symptomatic relief but prevent dehydration, too.

As a reminder it is important to carefully read and follow label directions when taking any medicine.

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