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We've got a great existing question on how to avoid Delhi Belly, but what happens if you're afflicted with it but still need to travel? For example, you have a non-changeable travel booking, or your visa is about to expire and you just need to leave the country. In such a case, staying put in your accommodation near the bathroom isn't an option...

In the situation where you just need to travel, what can you do to minimise your problems while you're suffering from a GI infection?

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2 Answers 2

I have tried the medicines such as imodium that are designed for this and they make me feel very unnatural and uncomfortable so I personally don't use them. I'm sure they will be dealt with in other answers. Others who prefer something more natural recommend charcoal tablets but I have not tried those.

Naturally I avoid moving when afflicted but this is what I do if I don't have a choice about when to travel:

  • Choose a more luxurious way to travel if you can.
    If you have to move on a certain date but don't already have your ticket you can take a step up in your usual comfort level. Switch from bus to train, or switch from chicken bus to VIP bus, or switch from 3rd class train to 2nd class. This is best when it means it increases your chances of getting transport with a toilet.

  • Pack lots of toilet paper in your daypack / carry-on luggage.
    Spare underwear and hand sanitizer etc are never a bad idea.

  • I eat lots of plain dry bread before and during the trip.
    Not sandwiches with butter or buns with sugar. No meat, no cheese, just plain. I find bananas are also pretty good, at least for me.

  • Avoid drinking too much water.
    This is a bit tricky because one of the bad effects of the condition is dehydration, but if you have a nasty case then even drinking anything can sometimes go straight through you.
    Take a bottle of water on the trip in case you feel the dehydration could become a bigger problem at some point and is worth the "risk". Do not take drinks with sugar or anything else like orange juice or milk or Coke. Black tea might be OK but coffee seems to make things worse. Personally I find drinking yoghurt very good. Perhaps because it has probiotics and does not have lactose, despite popular belief.

  • Be very sure it's "only" Delhi Belly.
    Not every cause of "the runs" is a mere inconvenience. There are some serious conditions you can pick up travelling that also result in diarrhea but for which you should make emergency changes to your plan and use your travel insurance or your emergency money.
    Do not travel if you have amoebic dysentery - go to a hospital.

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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.

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