The Dreaded Travelers Diarrhea


The TD Throne

TD is only a laughing matter on the written page. When you are faced with missing your visit to Familia Sagrada or The Louvre, there is nothing funny about TD. How do you get it? How do you stay clear of it? How do you get better?

Everyone knows street food can be a great slice of life in any country or foreign city. It might be the best tasting food you have had in a month. But it might contain a load of bacteria that your system can’t handle. You will know probably in hours, usually about 2 a.m. when you would much rather be sleeping. First clue: don’t eat street food ever.

Keep the bottled water handy. Don’t ever drink the water on a flight. Never. Though there is a movement to require the airlines to actually clean their water storage tanks, there is no guarantee. The reports of a high bacteria count in airline water are true. If you have to brush your teeth onboard, take your bottle with you or ask for fresh water from the flight attendant.

More on bottled water – there are places in the world that we can handle the local tap water but do you really want to find out? Keep the bottled water in the bathroom, again for brushing your teeth and rinsing your toothbrush, taking your vitamins and for quenching your thirst at midnight.

Pepto BismolIce can be downright dangerous. If you feel you can trust the tap water, the ice should be fine. If you don’t trust the tap water, don’t have any ice. Not even just once. Once when in one of the really lovely resort towns in Mexico, the entire batch of visitors came down with TD. There was one major ice supplier, whose purification system went on the fritz. The result was a sad looking bunch of tourists.

Whenever you purchase bottled water, be absolutely certain that the bottle is sealed. There are many that refill those bottles with nasty water and resell them. You drink the nasty stuff and get the germs of the last person who drank from the bottle to boot.

There are reports that chewing a Pepto-Bismol tablet daily when traveling can help prevent The Dreaded TD. Though we can’t swear to its effectiveness, we have never been subjected to TD when we use this really easy solution. It packs easily with no worries about spilling or weight. It is as necessary as our toothbrush when we travel. If you are on aspirin therapy, you should clear this with your physician first.

If traveling to countries where food sanitation is not up to the standards you would wish, you should definitely go for the series of Hepatitis shots. It prevents some types of food borne illness. We also keep our typhoid vaccinations up to date. Typhoid is actually a form of Salmonella and nothing I ever want to experience.

Unfortunately all possible preventions can fail. In that case you must stay hydrated or risk becoming really ill in a foreign country. The CDC has the formula for rehydration. Mix 1 liter of water with 2 T. sugar, ½ t. salt, ½ t. baking soda, and 1 ¼ t. potassium chloride (I have used salt substitute, which I believe is an o.k. substitute). An easier formula is 1 liter of water, 8 t. of sugar and 1 t. of salt. One could conceivably take the components along on a trip, if you feel comfortable carrying a lot of white powders with you.

Be prepared, be careful and you will likely dodge the dreaded TD!

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