By Rahila Ovais
Travellers’ Diarrhea – What You Need to Know
Travellers to developing countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa may develop diarrhea during their trip. It is almost always caused by contaminated food or water. It usually gets better on its own in a few days without causing serious problems.
Tips to prevent diarrhea while travelling:
Pack a thermometer and medicine to treat diarrhea. Talk to your pharmacist about what medicine is right for you.
Before you travel, talk to your doctor about antibiotics. Many people bring antibiotics with them in case they get seriously ill. A few people need to take medication to prevent diarrhea from happening at all.
Be careful when you eat and drink. Remember the saying, “Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it.”
Only eat or drink things that are not likely to make you sick. These include:
- Piping hot foods
- Fruit you peel yourself
- Cooked vegetables
- Carbonated beverages (with no ice cubes)
- Boiled or bottled water
- Pasteurized milk (properly stored)
Avoid foods and habits that will likely make you sick. These include:
- Buffet foods at room temperature
- Fresh soft cheese
- Food from street vendors
- Cold salads
- Raw vegetables
- Uncooked/cold sauces
- Unpeeled fruit
- Raspberries, strawberries, watermelon
- Ice cubes
- Undercooked meat or fish
- Large reef fish such as snapper, barracuda, grouper, jack and Moray eel
- Custard, mousse, mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce
- Wash your hands, especially before you eat.
- Avoid swallowing water while swimming.
- Do NOT drink local water.
- Drink bottled beverages from their original containers. Make sure the cap is properly sealed.
- Talk to your pharmacist about what to do if you have diarrhea while you are away.
Motion Sickness — What You Need to Know
Before you travel:
- Avoid eating a large meal within 3 hours of travel.
- Avoid dairy products and foods high in salt, calories or protein (such as meat or nuts).
While you are travelling:
- Try to get cool fresh air by opening air vents or using air conditioning.
- Avoid alcohol, smoking and disagreeable odours.
- Avoid reading and watching videos.
- Focus on the horizon or an object that does not move outside the car, plane or boat.
- Try pressing your head into the headrest.
- On a boat, try to stay in the middle.
- In a vehicle (such as a car or truck), sit in the front seat with a clear forward view.
- If possible, drive the vehicle rather than be a passenger.
Some people find that alternative remedies help them. However, there is no proof that they work. Try the suggestions above before trying alternative remedies, such as these:
- Eat or drink any of the following: apricot juice, carrot juice, unroasted pumpkin or squash seeds, parsley, peppermint tea.
- Try ginger root. This comes as candied ginger, powder, capsules and tea.
- Try acupressure wristbands.
Your pharmacist or doctor may recommend medication for motion sickness. Here are some things you should know about these medications:
- Do NOT take anti-nausea medication with alcohol.
- Most anti-nausea medications can cause drowsiness. Do NOT drive a car or operate dangerous machinery while you are taking these medications. They are as dangerous as alcohol when driving.
- If you need to be alert, talk to your pharmacist or doctor about taking a medication that does not cause much drowsiness.
- Anti-nausea medications can cause the following side effects: dizziness, shakiness, anxiety, blurred vision and constipation. Ask the pharmacist if your medication will cause side effects.
- When children take anti-nausea medications, they sometimes get very excitable instead of drowsy. Be sure to test the medication on the child before you travel.
Travel Medicine Checklist
- If recommended, destination-specific medication (talk to your Physician)
- Any prescription or over-the-counter drugs normally used at home
- Make sure that prescription medications are stored in their original containers from your pharmacy with the name of the person on the label. Pack these in your carry-on luggage.
- 1% hydrocortisone cream
- Allergy medication
- Antibacterial and antifungal spray/cream
- Anti-diarrheal medication
- Cold and flu medication
- Pain and fever medication
- Syringes or needles for medical use (if needed)
- Anti-motion sickness medication:
Give a dose to your kids an hour before boarding your flight, there will be no mishaps on board the flight and they will sleep well. When children take anti-nausea medications, they sometimes get very excitable instead of drowsy. Be sure to test the medication on the child before you travel.
First Aid Kit
- Adhesive bandages
- Adhesive tape
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (pack a few travel-size containers in each travelers’ carry-on luggage)
- Antiseptic wound cleanser
- Blister pads
- Disposable latex or vinyl gloves
- Packets of oral rehydration salts
- Safety pins and scissors (DO NOT pack scissors in your carry-on luggage)
- Tensor bandages
- After-sun lotion (for minor sun burns)
- Insect repellent (containing DEET)
- Aloe gel
- Ear plugs (to be packed in your carry-on luggage, helpful for take-off and landing)
- Extra pair of glasses or contacts (or copy of prescription)
- Mosquito net
- Saline eye drops
- Water purification filter or tablets
- Emergency blanket (if travelling by road)
- Mobile phone chargers
- Name, address and phone number of a family member or friend in Canada
- Name and phone number of your health care provider in Canada
- Address and phone number of your accommodations at your destination
- Address and phone number of hospitals or clinics at your destination
- Address and phone number of the Canadian Embassy, Consulate or High Commission office in your destination country/countries (and Emergency Contact Card)
- Emergency contact phone number from your travel health insurance provider
- Proof of your insurance coverage
- Copy of your immunization record
- International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, if required
Sources: http://www.etherapeutics.ca/psc.showChapter.action, http://www.etherapeutics.ca/psc.showChapter.action?documentId=pitravdiarrhea, http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/health-safety/kit, http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/pack-smart, http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/health-safety/children