By far the most common affliction facing backpackers and other world travelers is traveler’s diarrhea. Delhi Belly, Mummy Tummy, Montezuma’s Revenge—call it what you will, this unpleasant situation is almost inevitable for anyone that is planning to visit countries that are either developing or in regions far from their homes. Here are five tips for dealing with the runs:
1. Avoid them in the first place
It’s impossible to be totally safe, but you can drastically lower your chance of getting TD by watching what you eat and drink. Water, including ice, should only come from securely sealed bottles, poured in your presence. If you didn’t see where it came from, don’t drink it. Avoid fresh vegetables and salads that are washed in tap water, and try to only eat well-cooked foods.
Everything your mother told you is true. Bananas, plain rice, applesauce, toast—foods that are high in fiber and low in spices and other upsetting elements are definitely the way to go for several days after symptoms begin. One of the best parts of traveling is enjoying the wide variety of food on offer, but it’s worth waiting through a few days of blandness in order to get your stomach back in good shape. In the long run, your body will thank you.
Especially when traveling in hot climates, traveler’s diarrhea can easily lead to dehydration. It’s always important to drink more water than you really think is necessary. Supplement this with electrolyte-rich drinks, and avoid alcohol. Having some drinks may make you less thirsty, but they will only dehydrate you more. In an emergency case, don’t be afraid to visit a local hospital or clinic for observation and an IV drip. This minor inconvenience and cost can save your life if you become too dehydrated.
Over the counter medications, when taken in moderation, are a fine way to treat the symptoms of TD. They are unlikely to address the root cause, however. Antibiotics may be advisable if the condition continues, but be careful of overusing them. Pharmacists serve as prescribing doctors in many countries, but keep in mind that they directly benefit from selling you drugs. If you’re in doubt, seeing a real doctor is probably not that expensive and can give real peace of mind.
5. Wait it out
Yup, you don’t have much of a choice on this one, but realistically you’re likely just going to have to wait out your embarrassment and discomfort. Only leave your guesthouse when you really feel up to it, bring toilet paper with you everywhere (it is often not supplied in bathrooms, as locals in many countries don’t use it), and take plenty of time to rest. It is worth it to get totally better before going off on the next adventure.
If you’re suffering from the symptoms, follow this advice and you should be better soon. Good luck!