Overcoming Montezuma’s Revenge

We nickname it Montezuma’s Revenge, green apple quick step, back door trots or the belly bug, but there is nothing cute about diarrhea… especially while traveling. Though it primarily affects people visiting developing nations, diarrhea can strike anywhere. In fact, I have traveled in Amazon jungles, eaten off the streets of Manila, and shared a meal with a poor Nicaraguan family in their shanty house, but I have never been as sick as I was after a fabulous Cajun meal in New Orleans.  Here are some tips to preventing traveler’s diarrhea.

Preventative Care

Most travelers should memorize the standard instruction when it comes to drinks and food: BOIL IT, PEEL IT, or FORGET IT! Consider these rules of thumb:

  1. If boiling your water is impractical at your location, consume only recognizable bottled water in any place whose water supply is suspect.
  2. Alternatively, bring your own water treatment such as iodine tablets or a reverse-osmosis water filter. Both can be bought at any camping store.
  3. Don’t get ice cubes in your drink. Even drinks diluted with water can make you sick.
  4. Opt for canned beverages if you are out of reach of a good water supply.
  5. When eating fresh produce: always peel it.
  6. Look for restaurants or vendors that are well stocked with local folks.  You are quite a bit safer at these places.
  7. Eating at a well known fast food chain may be touristy, but they are usually a source of great food handling.

Causes and Treatments

80% of traveler’s diarrhea is bacterial so you will want to talk to your physician about carrying an antibiotic with you.  The type of antibiotic will vary with the part of the world you are visiting. The best course of action for diarrhea is plenty of liquids (primarily those with electrolytes) and a bit of rest. No preventative is 100% effective, and some people are much more prone to bacteria than others.

Post-Travel Care

If symptoms persist once you return home, see a doctor immediately.  You may have a parasite that needs special treatment.

After a decade working in parish youth ministry Shawn started Wonder Voyage Missions. Over the last 15 years, WVM has led thousands of pilgrims to over forty countries. Shawn is a storyteller and an award winning filmmaker. He is an author who brings the gift of engaging narrative to our journeys. Shawn is dedicated to creating voyages that give people abundant opportunities to encounter God.

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