Travellers' Diarrhoea | Symptoms, Treatment, Vaccines
What is Travellers' Diarrhoea?
The official definition for Travellers' Diarrhoea is passing three or more loose or watery bowel motions within any period of 24 hours. There is a lot of information on-line, but frankly I found it quite confusing. Here is my version, having lived in Thailand (a high risk area for Travellers' Diarrhoea) since 2003.
If you live in Europe or North America and visit a tropical country, such as Thailand, you WILL experience a change of pattern in your bowel movements. Bacteria form an important part of our digestive systems and these differ around the world. When your digestive system realises that something is different it will react.
Also, Thai food tends to be very spicy and this exacerbates the problem. Westerners arriving in Thailand will experience some loose bowel movements. After they get used to conditions in Thailand they may experience exactly the same thing when they return home. It's normal.
It's not a problem and there is no need to visit a doctor. Keep hydrated because you will lose a lot of body fluid and even being a little dehydrated can make you feel quite unwell. Avoid drinking iced water and consider adding some electrolyte powder to your drinking water to replace lost salt and minerals. These are easily available in Thailand, where sachets of electrolyte can be bought from any pharmacy.
The condition shouldn't last for more than a few days and if you really have to go somewhere you can take some Imodium, which will slow down the movement of the gut. Travellers' Diarrhoea isn't convenient, but it shouldn't cause a great deal of pain.
If the condition lasts longer, or if you are in a great deal of pain, you should see a doctor immediately. Thai doctors are excellent and they are especially good at treating illnesses that are common in Thailand.
The problem could be food poisoning or some form of bacterial gastroenteritis, and not simply the usual loose bowel motions that all travellers suffer from. I have suffered from both and the conditions are quite debilitating.
The doctor will prescribe suitable antibiotics. Be aware that self-diagnosis and treatment can actually be quite dangerous.
What Are The Symptoms?
The obvious sympton is a need to visit the toilet urgently with virtually no warning. You may also suffer from fever, intestinal cramps, nausea or vomiting. The problem completely drains your body of energy and you will not have the energy or motivation to do anything.
How Is It Contracted?
It is contracted through food and drink, which none of us can avoid.
Who Is At Most Risk?
Everyone. Obviously, those who travel to foreign countries, especially those countries in which hygiene standards aren't very stringent, but we can develop the same symptoms staying at home.
Where Are You At Risk?
The destinations where you are at the highest risk are in developing countries (continents) where hygiene standards are low, for example, Central and South America, Mexico, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Countries such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore, despite being in Asia, shouldn't be a problem because these countries are generally a lot more developed than other Asian countries. In Western and North Europe, Scandinavia, the United States and Canada, Australia and New Zealand shouldn't be a problem.
No licensed vaccines are available for Travellers' Diarrhoea. There is a drug called Dukoral, which gives some protection against certain types of Travellers' Diarrhoea, but it isn't recommended for travellers.
Source Of information
GlaxoSmithKline, Wikipedia, local doctors, local hospitals, newspaper articles, various.
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