Ask the expert: How can we prevent stomach issues on a vacation?

By Dr. Brian Aw, Travel Health Expert on February 14, 2013


We’re going to the Caribbean this winter for a family vacation but we’re worried because one of us always seems to come down with stomach issues. What can we do before we go?

Answer from Dr. Brian Aw, Travel Health Expert

As your family plans a trip to tropical destinations like Mexico and the Caribbean, don’t forget to take steps to prevent one of the most common travel illnesses – travellers’ diarrhea.

Despite everyone’s best intentions, up to 98 percent of people make a food or water mistake within the first three vacation days. Up to one in five people get sick with travellers’ diarrhea and are bed-ridden for an entire day. Symptoms can last up to five days.

Remember these preventive tips:

Avoid tap water. It can contain enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) bacteria, one of the most common causes of travellers’ diarrhea.

Cook it, boil it, peel it – or leave it!
Some sources containing the bacteria that cause travellers’ diarrhea include slushy cocktails, unpeeled fruit and raw seafood.

Before you leave, visit a healthcare professional. Speak with a travel health expert about prevention and all applicable vaccines. Dukoral, for example, is an oral vaccine that protects against ETEC and is taken in a two-dose schedule, with the first at least two weeks before departure.

Pass it on.
The information that is, not the sickness. Ensure your friends’ families are also protected from travellers’ diarrhea.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, February/March 2013.

By Dr. Brian Aw, Travel Health Expert| February 14, 2013

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