I am travelling to a developing country and am afraid of developing traveller’s diarrhea. What can I do to protect myself?
People who visit foreign countries are at risk for traveler’s diarrhea, which is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Although there are antibiotic prophylaxis available, they are not recommended in most cases. While you are travelling, wash your hands with warm, soapy water, drink bottled water and eat food that are served warm and cooked thoroughly. Try to avoid tap water (including ice), dairy products, raw vegetables, uncooked meats, and seafood. Foods that are usually safe to drink include hot coffee and tea, beer, wine and carbonated beverages. Fruits and vegetables that can be peeled are generally safe to eat.
Can you die from diarrhea?
Fluid and electrolytes help our bodies function. If we are dehydrated, water and electrolytes are lost and need to be replaced. If a person is severely dehydrated because of diarrhea, they can die. This is why it is important – particularly for children and the elderly – to seek medical attention if they have diarrhea that stretched over into a second day, have severe abdominal pain or cramping, fever or show signs of dehydration.
My symptoms are frequent diarrhea with undigested food in stool. What would cause this?
Diarrhea is a symptom that can result from many different causes. You would be wise to see your doctor. Below are some questions you may be asked by your doctor are:
- How long have you had this problem?
- Where you have traveled in the recent past?
- Were you taking antibiotics before the onset of the diarrhea?
- Has a new medication been prescribed for you? If so, what and when?
- What other symptoms are you experiencing? (ie. bleeding, weight loss)
The answers to these questions will help your doctor decide whether you need to be referred to a specialist for further investigation. You may need to have routine blood work done as well as stool tests for bacterial cultures looking for parasites and a special bacterial infection called Clostridium difficile.