Skip to main content

Don't Spend Your Vacation in the Bathroom

Travel Abroad

Being sick is awful. Being sick on vacation is even worse. No matter where you travel in the world, there are health risks involved in travel, and precautions you should take to avoid them. Diarrhea is the most common, and most easily avoided, malady encountered by travelers according to Christie Kelts, LPN, a professional in the University of Utah Health Travel Clinic. "I tell people 'You didn't pay money to visit the hotel bathroom, and if you aren't careful, that's where you're going to spend it,'" Kelts said.

The less severe, and most common, type of diarrhea encountered by travelers is called, fittingly, "traveler's diarrhea." Unsanitary food or water, or just not being accustomed to the cuisine are the usual causes. A more severe form of the type of diarrhea is dysentery, and is caused by bacteria infecting the intestines. In this case symptoms are more severe and include cramping, fever, and diarrhea that may or may not be bloody.

The best way to avoid both kinds of diarrhea is simple: watch what you eat. If you can't cook it, boil it or peel it, don't eat it. Other rules of thumb: Avoid raw fruits and vegetables, unpasteurized dairy products, and cold salsa, salads and sushi that have been left at room temperature. "It's also important to note that foods that are served in more expensive restaurants aren't necessarily safer," Kelts said.

Of course, you can be as careful as possible, and still end up with diarrhea. If that happens, you need to make sure to drink plenty of liquids to replace fluids lost. In cases of severe dehydration Kelts recommends a balanced salt solution. Bring along powder sport drink/electrolyte mixes or use the following recipe: 1 quart or liter of water + ½ teaspoon of table salt + 2 tablespoons of sugar.