I’m pretty sure it was the freshly cut pineapple on the streets of Antigua, Guatemala that was my gateway food to the world of travelers diarrhea. Since that fateful day, I’ve been in gastrointestinal distress three more times – in Panama, Nicaragua, and the Philippines.
Luckily, none of these experiences were severe enough to require hospital visits or prescription meds. But they were bad enough to make me regret every bite of food I put in my mouth leading up to that rumbling in my stomach.
I do not wish upon anyone (myself included) the uncomfortable side effects of getting sick on the road. But sometimes, no matter how careful you are, it happens.
When travelers diarrhea (also known as Montezuma’s Revenge, Delhi Belly, and the Aztec Two-Step) hits, not much goes through your head other than the location of a bathroom. Or at least a private spot where you can dig a hole.
I could write all about how to avoid getting TD (travelers diarrhea) but I think there are plenty of resources from real doctors that are better suited for that: Check out the Center for Disease Control
Instead, as someone who has been unable to break through the grasp of Montezuma many times on my travels, I have a few words of advice to get you through this uncomfortable time.
You may feel like you can handle a day of transport, but risking travel while suffering from gastrointestinal distress is not worth it. The last place you want to be is on a crowded, bumpy chicken bus when the urge to go strikes. If putting off traveling is not possible, I highly recommend taking an anti-diarrheal to plug you up for a bit.
It’s Never Just a Fart
This is perhaps the most lucrative of all the advice I can give. One of the things Montezuma throws at you during his revenge is the constant feeling of having to go to the bathroom. When you are sick, the chances of it being a harmless fart are very slim. Even if you think it will be okay, best get yourself to a bathroom ASAP.
Always Carry Toilet Paper with You
So simple. Don’t ever get caught in a bathroom without toilet paper. I follow this rule even when I feel fine, you would be surprised how many bathrooms around the world, even in first world countries, that don’t have toilet paper. The last thing you want is to be caught without TP while you have TD.
Know Where Your Nearest Bathroom Is At All Times
Hopefully, you are able to stay comfortably in one place until the sickness passes. If that is not the case, you need to always know where the nearest bathroom is. You will most likely need to make a mad dash for it at some point. No bathroom in sight? Find a spot that can become a bathroom. Can you dig a hole in the sand somewhere? Hide behind a tree? Always consider where you can get away to go if you need to go!
Drink Lots of Water AND Something Other Than Water
Any advice article you read on dealing with TD will tell you to drink water. Super important. You are losing a lot of water each time you go to the bathroom. I find it easy to just keep a water bottle at my side and continuously sip on it. I also always have another drink to aid my nausea (if I feel it), and add electrolytes and sodium back to my body.
I like mixing some soda water and salt with a little juice. That is my favorite re-hydrating liquid. Whatever you do, don’t drink coffee or soda. Caffeine=diuretic=more bathroom trips.
Have a Well-Stocked First Aid Kit
I don’t bring a ton of stuff in my first aid kit when I travel, but always have a few things to help ease the pain that comes with travelers diarrhea. Emergen-C or Airborne are easy to carry items that will help rehydrate and re-electrolyte (is that a thing?) you. An anti-diarrheal will help plug you up a bit. And I have an emergency prescription of cipro for travelers diarrhea that my doctor prescribed.
Don’t Be Shy – Go to the Doctor!
If your sickness lasts more than three days, is accompanied by high fever, or diarrhea and vomit – those are signs it is more serious. There is no reason to suffer through something potentially dangerous if you can get help. This is one of the reasons I travel with insurance (though thankfully it has never been bad enough to require a doctor for me).
You do not want your travel plans to be ruined because you got sick AND you had to spend a good chunk of your money on a hospital visit and medicine. I always travel with World Nomads Insurance, and though I’ve never filed a claim, I’ve had peace of mind. Check out their travel insurance policies here.
Eventually, Montezuma will get sick of holding on and release you. Hallelujah!
Have you ever suffered from Travelers Diarrhea? Any words of wisdom to add to this?
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