Monday, 14 May 2018

DIARRHEA: How to avoid it when you are traveling    

If when you are traveling in Mexico and you suffer from an attack of diarrhea, it is called Montezuma’s Revenge. I don’t know what other colourful names is given to it in other countries other than the Shits.

It is the condition of having at least three or more loose or liquid bowel movements each day. It often lasts for three or four days and can result in dehydration due to fluid loss. Signs of dehydration often begin with the loss of the normal stretchiness of the skin. This can progress to decreased urinationloss of skin color, a fast heart rate, and a decrease in responsiveness to get to a toilet as the attack  becomes more severe.

The most common cause of diarrhea is an infection of the intestines due to either a virusbacteria, or a parasite. It is a condition also known as gastroenteritis. These infections are often acquired from eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated by feces, or directly from another person who is infected.

Diarrhea can be prevented by improved sanitation, clean drinking water, and hand washing with soap. And this is where I raise the issue of traveling in countries where cleanliness is not always  taken seriously.

Since 1954, I have traveled in 30 countries world-wide and have only been struck with diarrhea twice during my travels in those countries.

The first attack took place in Mexico in 1969.  I had previously decided to visit a friend in a country in Central America what was then called British Honduras and its name was later changed to Belize.

I had driven my car from Toronto to Belize City which is a distance of 5,306 kilometres (3,432 miles). If I drove nonstop without any delays, it would take me three days to reach my destination. However, I spent the nights in many cities on the way there.

Montezuma’s Revenge hit me in Mexico while I was driving from the City of Campeche to the City of Chetumal on the other side of the Yucatan Peninsula.  I was about two hours from the latter city while I was driving there during the early night. I was thirsty and hungry and yes, there were stalls open on the sides of the road at that time of the night so I bought a small bottle of chocolate milk that was in a Coca Cola bottle.  How stupid could I get?

Soon after I arrived at my hotel in Chetumal, the diarrhea struck. I suffered for five days from this infliction even after I arrived in Belize City.

The second time I suffered from diarrhea was while my wife and I were traveling around Peru in 2005. I was a guest speaker at a world conference on the treatment of young offenders being held in Lima Peru.  We visited four cities in that country and in the third city, I got diarrhea. I had it real bad.

I attribute that attack to someone in one of the restaurants we ate at who didn’t wash his or her hands properly after they used the toilet and then prepared our food. My wife didn’t get it because she ate something different at whatever restaurant we went to.

Now obviously, the first attack was brought about my own stupidity but the second attack was brought about by someone’s carelessness.

Our oldest daughter and her 18-year-old daughter visited Peru in May of this year and a week later they were struck with a very serious case of diarrhea that has a long name. It is called Entamoebahistolytica. It is an anaerobic parasitic that infects humans and other primates causing amoebiasisE. histolyticais. The active trophozoite stage exists only in the host and in fresh loose feces; cysts survive outside the host in water, in soils, and on foods, especially under moist conditions on the latter. The infection can occur when a person puts anything into their mouth that has touched the feces of a person who is infected with E. histolytica and then swallows something, such as water or food that is contaminated with E. histolytica. It is estimated to infect about 50 million people worldwide.     

It is my opinion that the host of the home my daughter and her daughter stayed in had these parasites on her hands because she didn’t wash her hands after she used the toilet. Hence, the parasites ended up in their food and then into their bodies. They were hospitalized for two days.

There are four lessons that you can learn from this article. The first one is—be very careful what you eat when you are traveling in foreign countries. Second, be very careful when visiting the homes in foreign countries especially when they offer you food. And third, and most important, don’t buy food off of stalls on any street or road in a foreign country unless it is fresh fruit that you have to peel it or it is in bottles that were never opened. And finally, always bring with you on your trip a good supply of anti-diarrhea pills.

If you don’t follow these tips, you will have a real shitty vacation. Sorry, I couldn’t think of a better way to get this message to you.

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