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Eating and drinking while traveling

Diarrhea and other gastrointestinal disorders

Most traveler's diarrhea occurs in the first few days of a stay abroad, when the intestine has not yet got used to the "foreign" bacteria and viruses. The patient is usually healthy again after a few days. More serious intestinal infections are much less common - they are often associated with abdominal cramps, vomiting, or fever. The stools may be slimy or bloody. Possible causes of such diarrheal diseases are bacteria or parasites (e.g. giardiasis = lambliasis, amoebic dysentery).

Food poisoning manifests itself within a few hours after eating spoiled food with vomiting and diarrhea. Typhoid and paratyphoid fever, poliomyelitis, hepatitis A and hepatitis E and various parasitic diseases such as intestinal worms are also among the infections that can be contracted when traveling while carelessly eating and drinking. Worm eggs and the precursors of trichinae or of a liver or lung fluke etc. can be ingested through insufficiently heated food (meat containing cysts, freshwater fish or shellfish containing metacariums).



Caution when eating and drinking is the best prevention against diarrhea, as there is neither a vaccination nor a useful pill prophylaxis against traveler's diarrhea, amoebas and other intestinal parasites. No absolutely safe preventive protective effect has ever been proven for any of the numerous over-the-counter drugs on offer. Certain antibiotics reduce susceptibility, but because of possible side effects (e.g. increased sensitivity of the skin to light when using tetracyclines), they are not recommended as prophylaxis or only when using lotions with a very high sun protection factor (factor 30-40).

There has been a vaccination against hepatitis A since 1992. However, there is no vaccination against hepatitis E, which is also transmitted via contaminated food and can be particularly dangerous for pregnant women.


Treat traveler's diarrhea

Drinking plenty is the top priority. It is best to replace the lost liquid with bouillon, fruit juices or sugared tea. Solutions from the pharmacy containing salt and glucose are particularly beneficial for children and the elderly (e.g. Elotrans or Santalvt).

Sugar-salt solutions can also be easily prepared yourself:

  • 1l juice, 1 teaspoon table salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, or
  • 1l black tea, 1 teaspoon table salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, juice of 2 oranges

A lot of this is drunk in small sips. Otherwise, the enormous loss of water and salt in severe diarrhea causes a dry out of the body. This is dangerous at any age, but especially for young children and the elderly.

If z. B. for a flight or bus trip one quick recovery An anti-diarrheal drug can be used with the Active ingredient loperamide can be used in the stool for diarrhea without fever and without blood loss. However, it should only be used for a short time, as loperamide often delays the excretion of germs and thus healing. Herbal tannin preparations based on active ingredients or Lactobacillus boularfii as well as absorbent substances can be used for the prevention and treatment of mild diarrhea, especially in the elderly and with weak immune systems. If you have bloody diarrhea and persistent fever, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Eating pretzel sticks, white bread, gruel and bananas as well as drinking soda containing cola and sugared black tea can also be helpful in individual cases. Are such measures after 48 to 72 hours unsuccessful, if the symptoms are getting worse or if the illness is severely physically impairing or associated with frequent vomiting, a doctor should be consulted immediately.


Video: Five Signs of Food Poisoning

Source: CDC, 04/22/2019



April 26, 2019, Dr. med. Andrea Gontard (AG), specialist in general medicine