fishtacos copyI recently came across a post on Road Junky where the author recounts a valuable lesson taught by a local woman in Guatemala.  Even though he had survived the local waters in several countries around the world, he refrained from sampling the Guatemalan brew.  Thanks to his guide, he witnessed the path the water took on the way to the spigot and made a smart decision.

I wish I had read this post BEFORE I set out on vacation to Los Cabos, on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. Specifically, before I headed out to the restaurant recommended for its fish tacos and frittatas by a local fishing captain.  The tacos were every little bit of heaven that he described, but later I endured a hellacious experience that still pains me to recall.

Montezuma’s Revenge, the Cairo Two-Step and my personal favorite the Thai-dal Wave are colloquial names for Traveler’s Diarrhea (TD). Each year, an estimated 10 million travelers develop TD. The primary source of infection is ingestion of contaminated food or water.

The dominant risk factor in developing TD is the travel destination. High-risk destinations include Central American countries, the Middle East, South East Asia and Africa. Young adults and individuals with weak immune systems are at higher-risk for contracting TD, and although it usually resolves itself within three to five days, for those who contract a serious infection, TD can be life-threatening.

Prevention Tips

  • Maintain good hygiene and use only safe water for drinking and brushing teeth.
  • Use only bottled water and avoid ice.
  • Avoid raw fruits and vegetables unless peeled by the traveler.

If handled properly, well-cooked and packaged foods are usually safe. Eating raw or undercooked meat and seafood should be avoided. Dairy products, mayonnaise and cake or desert icing are associated with TD, as are foods or beverages purchased from street vendors or other establishments where unsanitary conditions are present.

With recent developments in technology, some resort destinations now have on-site water purification capabilities. It is wise to “know before you go,” so research whether tap water at hotels is considered safe. 

If you are unlucky enough to become a victim, the most important thing to do is to keep yourself hydrated.  There are many over-the-counter medicines available (Pepto-Bismol, Imodium, etc) to help with the symptoms, but don’t overuse them. If your symptoms do not resolve themselves within a few days, if the diarrhea is severe, bloody and/or accompanied by chills, or if you can’t maintain enough fluids in your system, find a doctor who will see you immediately. (And if you need help finding one, check out www.mpassport.com.)

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About The Author

John Wargo is a guest contributor to Healthy Travel Blog and a full time employee of HTH Worldwide. He hails from Philadelphia where he enjoys a slew of awesome activities including intramural kickball. His travel experience includes most of Europe, as far as Istanbul. During his college career he also attended the University of Valencia in Spain for two semesters. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Denison University in Granville, Ohio and hopes one day to be a contestant on the Price is Right.

3 Comments

  1. Two main components of your digestive system are your gut flora and your digestive immune system. The flora is made up of some 100 trillion individual bacteria, both good and bad, in total weighing between 200 and 1000 grams. Your digestive immune system comprises up to 80% of your body’s total immune capacity and helps maintain digestive health by directly eliminating bad bacteria when they overgrow.

    Your digestive immune system capacity is static and like all body organs diminishes with age and stress. When traveling, the new environment stresses your immune system allowing bad bacteria to proliferate. As much as taking probiotics adds to the total good bacteria population, they will not kill the bad guys once they take hold.

    Gastro Aid Plus is an all natural source of extra immunity that boosts your digestive immune system allowing it to quickly deal with the actual problem causing TD.

  2. […] Organization (WHO) reports, flooding can cause pollution leading to food-borne illnesses that attack one’s digestive system.  Flooding also creates a moisture-rich environment ideal for mosquitoes to breed. More mosquitoes […]

  3. I experienced the wrath of Montezuma on my first trip to Mexico many years ago and swore I would never go through that again. It sparked my interest to look for something that could prevent it, and found that a good probiotic containing acidophilus and bifido bacteria taken about a week before you leave (and throughout the duration of your trip.) can really stack the odds in your favor against TD. I wrote a blog post about it on my site at http://www.yourtraveltoolkit.com

    My sister and brother in law go to Mexico frequently and I gave them “Optiflora” to take. Neither of them got sick and they offered it to a relative who came to visit. She would not take it and did get sick. So, in addition to the precautions you’ve mentioned I would definitely add a probiotic.

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