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Tips for Preventing Traveler’s Diarrhea in the Tropics

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Tips for Preventing Traveler’s Diarrhea in the Tropics

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raveler’s diarrhea is an increase in the frequency of watery stools that occurs when traveling abroad, caused by an intestinal microbial infection from microbes present in the food or water supply. As well as diarrhea, symptoms include cramping, nausea and fatigue.

Traveler’s diarrhea can strike up to 50% of international travelers every year- accounting for up to 10 million people. This makes traveler’s diarrhea the most common travel-related illness worldwide. It is often caused by infectious agents, like bacteria, that are found in feces contaminated water.

The destination of travel is a major risk factor in the development of travelers’ diarrhea with developing countries posing the highest risk. Of particularly high risk are countries in the tropics. Those with weak immune systems and digestive disorders are at a higher risk of developing traveler’s diarrhea.

It is never fun being ill away from home, so here are 10 top tips that can help prevent you from contracting traveler’s diarrhea when in the tropics:

1. Drink bottled beverages
-Ensure all bottles are sealed before you drink their contents. Some street vendors may try and sell you tap water in plastic bottles in order to make extra profit, so always double check- and always avoid tap water.
-Even ice cubes are a no go- so when out and about, always ask to have your drink served without them.
2. Ensure coffee and tea are made with properly boiled or bottled water
-If tap water is not completely boiled microbes can survive, and if incorporated into your drink, make you ill. Guarantee that even your hot drinks are made with safe water.
3. Brush your teeth with bottled water
-Even the smallest amount of tap water can carry diarrhea causing microbes, so make sure that you brush your teeth with bottled, or recently boiled, purified water to keep yourself safe, and illness free.
4. Beware of fruit and veggie skins
-Any contact with tap water in areas where the water supply is unsafe is unadvised. Therefore make sure that any fruits and veggies you eat have not been washed in unsafe tap water. Don’t eat leafy salads. If unsure, always peel them, and discard the skins.
-It is best to opt for fruit and vegetables that you can peel yourself, like oranges and bananas. Stay away from apples and pears that are harder to peel when out and about.
5. Steer clear of street vendors
-Although tempting, you should steer clear of buying food and drink from street vendors. Often the products have been left out for long periods of time, and therefore can pose a high risk of microbial contamination.
-As a rule of thumb, always eat hot foods when they are hot and cold foods when they are cold. Diarrhea causing microorganisms multiply when food and drink are at room temperature.
6. Avoid undercooked seafood and meat
-Always ensure that your food is thoroughly cooked to keep your risk of developing diarrhea down. -Don’t be tempted by ordering your steak rare.
7. Be wary of dairy products
-When in the tropics, either steer clear, or eat and drink only pasteurized milk and dairy products as they can be microbial breeding grounds.
8. Wash your hands
-Don’t take this for granted as hand washing prevents transmission of diarrhea causing bacteria or parasites to your food or mouth. Especially important if you have been out and about, or close to animals.
9. Choose restaurants wisely
-Look out for restaurants that have a good reputation for safety, and hygiene. Ask your travel agent, or hotel staff for suggestions.
-Even when in reputable restaurants it is still best advised to avoid raw foods and fresh fruits and vegetables that do not need to be peeled, to keep you safe and healthy.
10. Don’t eat buffet foods
-When food is left sitting around, and is not kept at the correct temperature, it allows for microorganisms to reproduce and colonize.
-Additionally, lots of people touch the food and utensils in buffet joints, so steer clear at all costs.

What to do if you get Traveler’s Diarrhea
If you follow these top tips you should not have to worry about getting ill, but if you are unlucky and still get traveler’s diarrhea then you can help yourself feel better by keeping hydrated to replace lost fluids and restore energy as in all cases of diarrhea and vomiting, fluid replacement is very important. A great way to rehydrate is by alternating between a fruit juice/honey/ salt mix and a carbonated water/baking soda mix. In addition, to keep your electrolytes up, try sipping on soups and broths that have been thoroughly boiled. In addition, always pack a few medications and cleaning products in your traveling medicine kit to keep you healthy. Good choices include: motion sickness remedies, antibacterial soap, vitamins, and diarrhea- rehydration mixes.

To keep you happy and healthy on your trip to the tropics also check out the following articles:

Top ten tips for comfortable trips – Surviving a long haul flight without being wrecked

Top tips to prevent Jet Lag after a long haul flight

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