Travellers diarrhea

At some point or other during their journeys, between 20 and 50% of all travellers suffer from diarrhea. In these cases the classic travellers' diarrhea is more than just an inconvenience, as some 30% of the afflicted persons are stuck in bed and another 40% are forced to make short-term alterations in their travel plans. For children, these diarrhea attacks can represent an acute threat to life.

The typical travellers' diarrhea is greatly exacerbated by climatic changes, time shifts, changes in the water balance, unfamiliar foods, greasy and oily foods, roasted foods and oversized quantities of chilled beverages. The causative organisms are generally bacteria or viruses, which disappear from the intestinal tract in a matter of hours or days without the need to take any specific medication (antibiotics).

Prevention of travellers' diarrhea involves protection of the upper abdomen from chill, especially from air conditioning at night, avoidance of open water or juices, ice cubes, salads and shellfish. Should the illness occur, the self-therapy should begin primarily with an easing up of demands on the body ranging all the way to an interruption in the journey.

Treatment may consist only of diet and taking plenty of liquids. Tea with sugar and a bit of salt, cola and possibly electrolyte replacement solutions in cases of severe dehydration regenerate the water and salt balance in the body. Once the acute symptoms have subsided, the patient can begin slowly building up nourishment: boiled oatmeal, mashed vegetables, meat bouillon, noodles, rice, lean meat, bouillon with an egg, pre-boiled milk. Bananas constipate and restore lost potassium. Alcohol, cigarettes, spicy or fatty foods should be avoided.

In terms of medication, the patient should quickly restore the dehydration and loss of electrolytes with an electrolyte powder, beyond which the use of an anti-diarrhea medication must be weighed seriously against the possibility of stomach cramps. Constipating medications marketed as diarrhea cures should be used very cautiously. They may quickly reduce the symptoms, but with it the ability of the body to excrete the causative parasites. If the causative agents are dangerous ones, such as shigella or amoebas, it may even help them spread. As a general rule, no constipating medications should be used in cases of bloody diarrhea and on children under the age of 12 without consulting a physician.

Antibiotics should only be used when fever appears for more than one night, blood can be seen in the stool or when no improvement in the condition can be noticed after three days.

Diarrhea conditions that continue after the return from the trip or come about shortly after returning from a journey should be clarified by a physician.

…have a nice time!

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