The most frequent travel disease is diarrhea. There is a more reasonable chance of coming home with diarrhea from Asia (India, Thailand), Mexico, Central Africa and Egypt. Tap-water consumed by residents can carry a risk for the traveller. Pathogens causing diarrhea may be bacteria, unicellular parasites (protozoa), viruses, and worms. Healthy adults usually recover spontaneously from diarrhea in a few days, or 2 to 3 weeks at worst, and mostly require no more than symptomatic treatment and rehydration.
Medication treatment and possibly a laboratory test is necessary if: diarrhea is accompanied by high fever; there is blood found in the stool; pieces of worms are noticed in the stool; the number of daily bowel movements exceeds 10-15; or the condition becomes prolonged for more than 3 weeks.
Traveller’s diarrhea is partly preventable byadherence to hygiene rules, as well as compliance with recommendations on eating and drinking practices.
Travelers should better adhere to these hygiene and food handling rules:
- Don’t consume raw salad, raw or half-done meat or fish, or washed by tap-water
- Prefer food well done, well cooked
- Use bottled water (for drinking and tooth brushing as well)
- Don’t aks for ice cubes, they are often made of tap-water
- Strict hygiene, for example canned drinks can be consumed after cleaning the package
- Don’t miss careful handwash before eating or preparing food
- Antibacterial wipes, soap, gel are also recommended
- Slogen: „Boil it, fry it, peel it, or forget it!”
WHAT TO DO while having diarrhea
A rule of thumb for adults is to drink a glass of water every hour and yet another glass after each bowel movement. If the patient is unable to drink, the case is an emergency and needs medical attention.
Most cases of diarrhea resolve within 48 hours without any medical treatment; all that is required is salt and fluid replacement. People facing greater risks of circulatory failure through dehydration are primarily children, the elderly, and those of deteriorated health.
Fluid replacement can be fulfilled by pharmacy products: Normolyt andSmecta powder, ORS rehydration granulation, or by a homemade mixture: 4 teaspoons sugar, half teaspoon salt in 1 l boiled or bottled (not sparkling) water.
No starvation is necessary; frequent small meals are recommended. Foods containing lactose and drinks with caffeine are to be avoided.