9 Ways to Avoid Traveler's Diarrhea
No one wants to bring an upset stomach along on their big trip. Take these precautions so you don’t spend vacation confined to your hotel room.
Choose Safe Destinations
If you spend two weeks in central or northern Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan, or Australia, your risk of traveler’s diarrhea is 8% or lower. But head to the Middle East, southern Asia, Central and South America, and Africa, and your odds leap as high as 90%. Note that people from countries with high sanitary standards have higher traveler’s diarrhea rates than those from less developed countries.
Stay A While
Your risk of contracting a stomach-churning virus is highest in the first week of your visit, then levels off. If you’re living in another country, your odds decrease again after about a year. This is because your immune system builds defense against common germs in that area.
Skip the Acid Suppressants
Though stomach acid can cause heartburn, it also fights off harmful bugs. People who take over-the-counter or prescription medications to treat acid reflux are more likely to contract traveler’s diarrhea.
Turn Off the Tap
If you’re in a high-risk area, use bottled or treated water for drinking and for brushing your teeth. Make sure your drinks don’t contain ice made from tap water. Best advice is to skip ice altogether. When feeding infants while traveling, breast milk is safest, if possible. If you use formula, boil tap water at least five minutes before mixing.
Besides tap water, disease-causing germs can lurk in fruit juices, milk, and other unbottled drinks. Stick to sodas and other carbonated beverages, and sip only from bottles that were sealed. Boiled, hot, and chlorine-treated drinks are typically safe.
Be careful with buffets and street vendor food in high-risk areas. Heat kills bacteria, so order hot, fresh meals instead of raw or rare meat or fish. Avoid raw fruits and vegetables—including salads—unless you can peel them yourself. They may have been washed in tainted tap water.
Cook for Yourself
If you can stay in a facility with a microwave or stove, your risk may be reduced. You’ll remain in control of what you’re eating and how it’s prepared. Even if you order carefully in a restaurant, there may still be hazards you don’t see in the kitchen.
Keep It Clean
Wash your hands frequently on the road. Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer handy. If you’re traveling with children, watch that they don’t crawl on dirty floors or put soiled objects in their mouths. When dining, inspect dishes and utensils for visible grime.
See Your Doctor Before You Go
Make an appointment four to six weeks before your trip. Your doctor may give you medicines, such as antibiotics or shots, to prevent you from getting sick while you’re away. He or she may also give you a prescription to take with you that can relieve diarrhea should the unforeseen occurs.
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- Treatment Options for GERD or Acid Reflux Disease: A Review of the Research for Adults. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Sept. 23, 2011. http://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/index.cfm/search-for-guides-reviews-and-reports/?pageaction=disp...
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