One of the biggest challenges trekkers face in Nepal is maintaining the hygiene and standard of food they intake during their travel. Knowing that it is very difficult to get healthy and hygienic food in rural areas of Nepal, it’s not a surprise to see a lot of people suffering from diarrhea and dysentery.
What is Traveler’s diarrhea?
Traveler’s diarrhea is a stomach and intestinal infection that occurs because of contaminated food or water. The basic symptoms of Traveler’s diarrhea includes abrupt onset of three or more loose stools a day, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and fever.
What causes Traveler’s diarrhea?
Traveler’s diarrhea can happen because of the following reasons:
- Consumption of raw, undercooked, unwashed, or improperly handled meat, poultry products, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, etc.
- Drinking contaminated water or beverages
- Eating food from street vendors where food handling and hygienic practices are not followed properly
While contaminated food and improper hygiene are the main culprits responsible for the disease, stress caused by traveling or even a change in diet can also cause this disease
Fortunately, Traveler’s diarrhea can be cured within 3 to 4 days but sometimes the symptoms last more than this and can get even worse.
So how do you avoid catching this disease while travelling in Nepal?
1. Only eat healthy and hygienic food
Food and sanitation should always be taken care of when you are planning to visit Nepal. Though everything might not be in your hands, if you pay proper attention to things under your control, the risk of the disease will be minimized considerably.
Here are some things you should keep in mind:
- Don’t consume food from street vendors.
- Don’t go for unpasteurized milk and dairy products, including ice cream.
- Avoid raw or undercooked meat and fish.
- Try to stick to fruits and vegetables that you can peel yourself, such as bananas, oranges and avocados.
- Stay away from salads and unpeelable fruits, such as grapes and berries as unpeeled fruits might increase the risk of Traveler’s diarrhea.
2. Be very careful about water and other beverages you drink
Another prominent reason for traveler’s diarrhea is consumption of unhygienic water.
To stay protected from the consequences of drinking contaminated water, always remember to:
- Avoid unsterilized water from taps, wells or streams. If you need to consume local water, boil it for at least three minutes.
- Avoid locally made ice cubes or mixed fruit juices made with tap water.
- Beware of sliced fruit that may have been washed in contaminated water.
- Feel free to drink canned or bottled drinks in their original containers, including water, carbonated beverages, beer or wine as long as you break the seals on the containers yourself.
- When you order hot beverages, such as coffee or tea, make sure they’re steaming hot which means that they have been boiled properly.
3. Take proper care of your hygiene and sanitation
Even if you are taking all the preventive measures on food and drinks, improper hygiene and sanitation might turn out to be equally hazardous so always:
- Make sure dishes and utensils are clean and dry before using them.
- Always wash your hands before eating. If washing isn’t possible, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol to clean your hands before eating.
- Try to get bottled water to brush your teeth.
- Don’t swim in water that may be contaminated.
4. The best treatment for traveler’s diarrhea is drinking a lot of water & staying hydrated
Diarrhea makes dehydration a major concern because of frequent loss of fluids and salts. To combat this the way is to stay hydrated by taking small sips of clean water continuously (don’t try drinking a lot of water at a single time).
Caffeinated, alcoholic, and sugary drinks can also worsen dehydration. You should also avoid milk and other dairy products as they can make the symptoms worse.
5. It’s better to go for a bland diet when you have diarrhea
On the first day of having diarrhea, you may just want to rely on clear liquids, but it is recommended to slowly switch to a bland diet. A bland diet consists of food that is generally soft, low in dietary fiber, cooked (and not raw), and not spicy.
Some bland foods include bananas, rice, mashed potatoes, and toast.
Should you see a doctor if you are suffering from Traveler’s diarrhea?
Most often the cause of Traveler’s diarrhoea is the Escherichia coli (ETEC) bacteria. In such cases, the infection goes away by itself within few days. If it is still persisting for more than two days, you must consult with a doctor.
Diarrhea can also be caused by organisms other than common bacteria which may cause severe symptoms such as severe dehydration, persistent vomiting, bloody stool or a high fever. If you experience any of these symptoms, then it’s best to seek medical help immediately.
For proper consultation on Traveler’s diarrhea and for the best treatment, visit us at Swacon Hospital where our expert medical staff are ready to help you. We can also help you with other types of medical care especially travel medicine and rescue medicine.
Health for All