Approximately 20 to 50 percent of people who travel to Latin America experience the unpleasant symptoms of traveller’s diarrhea, informally called “turista” or “Montezuma’s revenge.” If you plan on visiting a sunny destination soon, here are a few tips to help you prevent or treat this condition.
Traveller’s diarrhea is a temporary (usually 1 to 5 days) gastrointestinal infection caused by bacteria, viruses or, in rare cases, parasites. Symptoms include mild, moderate (or at times severe) abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever and general malaise.
In addition to these unpleasant symptoms, traveller’s diarrhea poses a risk of dehydration. There are important measures that need to be taken in this respect.
Prevention, prevention, prevention!
You generally develop traveller’s diarrhea by coming into contact with infected people or by consuming contaminated food or water. To avoid an infection, you need to focus on taking the appropriate preventive measures throughout your stay. Here are a few recommendations:
- Drink only boiled or bottled water.
- Do not brush your teeth with tap water.
- Do not eat unpeeled fruit or vegetables.
- Avoid consuming food or drinks not prepared according to proper sanitation measures. Ask your hotel about their sanitation practices.
- Wash your hands well after going to the bathroom and before eating.
Your family pharmacist can give you more information on other effective ways to prevent traveller’s diarrhea.
Vaccine to prevent diarrhea
Dukoral® is an oral vaccine that requires two doses from one to six weeks apart. It comes in a powder that must be dissolved in water and drunk immediately. The dose is based on a person’s age. The second dose must be administered at least a week before departure and protection lasts three months. You will need to ask your pharmacist whether this vaccine is right for you
Certain antibiotics, such as ciprofloxacin and azithromycin, can be prescribed by your doctor or pharmacist to treat traveller’s diarrhea. If you need to take these medications during your trip or when you return, you will need to carefully follow the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. If you are visiting Africa, Asia, the Middle East or certain countries in Latin America, you should have them with you in your luggage.
Over-the-counter medications such as Imodium® can help relieve diarrhea by slowing down movement in the intestines. Be sure to also pack a rehydration formula like Gastrolyte® in your travel kit.
Your pharmacist can also give you information on over-the-counter drugs to treat symptoms of traveller’s diarrhea or prevent dehydration.
For more information on the medical precautions to take before you travel, speak with your family pharmacist!
Family pharmacists can prescribe* medications for certain minor health problems, when no diagnosis is needed, as is the case with traveller’s diarrhea. A consultation will be required so the pharmacist can make sure you meet the prescribing criteria.
To avail yourself of this service, you may need to book an appointment with your family pharmacist. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more details. Some Uniprix-affiliated pharmacies also offer an online appointment booking service. To locate the store nearest you providing this service, click here.
*Certain conditions must be respected. Fees may apply. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more information. Pharmacists alone are responsible for the practice of pharmacy. They offer related services only on behalf of pharmacist-owners