With the Christmas/New Year’s holidays nearly upon us, the “trendy” gifts aren’t big-screen TVs or tablets waiting under a tree to be opened. Material things are taking a back seat to something new: Large families taking long-distance trips to far away places across the ocean, according to travel experts.
Traveling with a large contingent of your family, for instance, on a jungle expedition to the other side of the world conjures thoughts of once-in-a-lifetime memories. One of those recollections that will stay with you forever, however, should not be the days you spent sick with traveler’s diarrhea.
Unfortunately, traveler’s diarrhea is the most common ailment travelers face, affecting as many as half of all Americans traveling to international destinations. Although traveler’s diarrhea may happen any time — even after returning home — the CDC warns the onset usually starts during the first week of your trip.
The symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea — frequent trips to the bathroom, loose stools, nausea, cramping, bloating and fever — are abrupt, meaning they won’t sneak up on you. Although traveler’s diarrhea is rarely life-threatening, most incidents are resolved in a week, just enough time to ruin your dream trip.
The following precautions should do the trick to help you and your family sidestep traveler’s diarrhea and make your trip a healthy one.
The Six Ways to Avoid Traveler’s Diarrhea
1. Be sure you and your loved ones are current on all of your vaccinations. You may also need to be vaccinated for diseases (Hepatitis A and B and Typhoid) that aren’t found in North America.
2. The popular warning “don’t drink the water” should also include avoiding unpasteurized dairy foods (milk and cheeses), fruit that hasn’t been washed and peeled and cooked foods allowed to cool. Also, don’t chill your drinks with ice that may be produced with unclean water.
3. Keep your hands as clean as possible with simple soap and water, especially before a meal. Travelers should also stay away from touching their mouths, faces or any mucous membranes with their hands as much as possible during their trip, according to the CDC.
(A warning: A proposed rule under consideration by the FDA would raise the burden on manufacturers to prove their antibacterial soaps prevent more infections than simpler soaps.)
Watch For Bugs!
4. Because diseases can be spread due to mosquito bites, consider using insect repellants made with DEET or picaridin.
5. As a preventative measure, some medical experts have suggested prescribing antibiotics in the past. However, those same experts are thinking twice, considering all the problems connected with increased antibiotic resistance and eradicating the balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut.
6. A growing number of studies have found consistently taking a probiotic at least two days before a long-distance trip can boost your immune system naturally, and help you and your family avoid traveler’s diarrhea.
For healthy adults, taking a probiotic formulated with multiple strains of bacteria like EndoMune on an empty stomach about a half-hour before eating your morning meal may boost your immune system and promote optimal gut health.
Also, if you must take an antibiotic on the road, be sure to delay taking a probiotic by two hours. Doing so will reduce the risk of antibiotics destroying the live, beneficial bacteria contained in a probiotic that preserve and protect your gut health.