Firstly, we'll start with an acronym so that we don't have to use it again. Henceforth, TD will mean Traveller's Diarrhea.
Now that that's out of the way, let's look at what happened. You likely ate, or drank something that has caused your innards some grief. It may have even come from a surprising source that you don't immediately consider - ice cubes in your drink, or water while brushing your teeth.
The most common cause is a source of bacteria, in particular E.Coli, but many similar microbes can lead to stomach distress and TD.
It's important to be aware that there are also more serious forms with very similar symptoms, including:
- Amebic dysentry (think TD but with blood). Speak to a doctor immediately.
- Giardiasis - can go on for weeks, and include cramping, dizziness and more. If it lasts more than 48 hours, speak to a doctor.
- Cholera - usually very watery TD with mucus (eww).
Right, so I've got TD, but can't rest and need to travel - now what?
Symptoms frankly often clear up after a day or two on their own. This of course is of little comfort when you're suffering, but at least there's hope, a light at the end of the TD tunnel. You can also speed up recovery through:
- staying hydrated. Avoid caffeine, soda, coffee, and drink lots of water. Replenish your fluids, especially in hot countries. No alcohol!
- medicine. Pepto bismol or Immodium are the most common. However it's important to remember these aren't cures, they just relieve the symptoms. They work by trying to, ahem, block up your system, which can actually be counterproductive or even dangerous (your body is trying to flush out the diseases).
- antibiotics - in the worst cases, you may have to resort to these. Ciprofloxacin or similar can be prescribed by a doctor.
- pack toilet paper/bog roll. In Central Asia - particularly Uzbekistan, it was bizarre to see all the travellers at the hostel sitting around with individual bog rolls. However, it was very necessary - every few minutes someone would have to disappear 'for duty' - it comes on fast and suddenly, and very frequently, public toilets either don't provide or charge for paper. Have your own supply!
Above all, monitor and listen to your body. TD is more often frustrating and awkward than dangerous, but you need to look for symptoms of it progressing or getting worse, and in any event of further symptoms developing, speak to a medical professional.