Dive Travel Tips

By DAN World Director, Stan Bugg

Traveller’s Diarrhoea

The euphemisms vary according to your destination. Americans who go to Mexico call is Montezuma’s Revenge. Closer to home, I have heard it called Delhi Belly, the Ponape Poops. Truk Trots, Thailand two steps, Gizo gripes, Bali Belly and several others that would have Mel reaching for the delete button! The names may change but the problem is worldwide.

I refer to that all too common ailment: traveller’s diarrhoea.

If you venture overseas often enough, you are bound to be afflicted sooner or later. Some people are extremely sensitive to any change in their diet, and succumb every time they leave their own region.

Most infections are minor, and sort themselves out in a day or so, but at its worst, traveler’s diarrhoea can result in serious illness.

The usual cause of the problem is ingestion of viruses, bacteria or parasites, in food or water. Short of starvation, it is impossible to eliminate risk, but a prudent person can take precautions that reduce the incidence considerably.

First of all, carefully consider what you eat and drink. Stick to food that has been thoroughly cooked, and is still hot. Avoid lukewarm “bainmarie-type” meals, or pre-prepared food that has been standing for a long time.

Raw food (fruit, salads) should be avoided unless it can be peeled, or washed in water guaranteed to be clean. If at all possible, perform the washing or peeling yourself, as food can be contaminated during this phase if the water is suspect.

Avoid drinking tap water or its derivatives. Most places claim that their water is safe to drink, but if you are not sure, err on the safe side. Many travellers drink only bottled water … a wise choice if there is any doubt … but they allow ice to be added to mixed drinks, or accept a jug of water with their meals. Both are more than likely from the tap. Insist on drinks being ice-free, and ask for bottled water at restaurants if you are at all unsure.

At your hotel, use bottled or sterilized water to brush your teeth, and to rinse your toothbrush.

If, despite all precautions mentioned above, you succumb to an attack, prompt action can reduce the severity and duration of the affliction.

At the first sign of a problem, hydrate regularly, and consider taking over the counter medication to settle the situation. Imodium is an effective option here, but use it cautiously, and within recommendations. Maintain liquid intake, but if you do not feel like eating, there is no harm in missing a meal or two.

If the problem persists for more than a few days, or if there is fever present, seek medical advice.

Meanwhile, be scrupulous with your personal hygiene, and ensure that you do not pass the problem on to others. Do not share drink bottles, and avoid handling any food for consumption by other people.

Although these steps cannot entirely guarantee that you will not became affected, they should help most people avoid, or reduce the severity of an attack.

Copyright sbugg 2011