Travelers Tummy Troubles (viewer discretion)

Anybody who knows me will understand how difficult this is for me to talk about – I’ve never been one to discuss bodily functions, but this is something I think is important to raise.  Saigon Stomach, Delhi Belly, Montezuma’s Revenge, whatever you call it, Traveler’s Diarrhea can put a crimp in your holiday plans.  When I began this epic journey, I expected that I would experience stomach issues from time to time, I just didn’t realize how serious it can be.  During my first couple of weeks in Vietnam I experienced a few minor bouts of diarrhea, it was short lived and if I took it easy I was fine, and didn’t even have to take anything… but third time is a charm, so they say, and this time it hit me like a ton of bricks! I had watery diarrhea for about 24 hours, going to the washroom every hour or two.  I also have had horrible stomach cramps (not that they are ever nice), nausea, and a fever with chills.  I knew to stay hydrated so was trying to drink as much water and electrolytes as I could. Unfortunately ever time i did that, I would end up back in the bathroom.  I was also on a bike tour, but luckily when it struck it was a ‘day off’ with an optional ride, which I declined.  As the day went on, it became worse and worse. I was in agony and couldn’t get warm.  After waking up every hour or so to run back to the washroom (that’s why they call them the ‘runs’) I decided to call my travel clinic doctor back in Canada.  She told me to start taking the Azithromycin, stronger than the Ciprofl0xacine, you take just one pill per day as opposed to 3.  She also told me to start taking Imodium to stop the flow, so to speak.  I don’t know why I had waited so long, except that my previous bouts had corrected themselves without any drug intervention.  I try to avoid taking any medication unless I’m really sick and this time I really needed the help.  I took the pills and went back to bed, but instead of the instant relief I had expected, the cramps became unbearable.  Luckily that only lasted about an hour and then it eased off somewhat.  But while Imodium had always worked with just one dose in the past, even after my second and third doses I was still suffering with watery diarrhea.  It must have eased a bit though because I was able to get about 3 hours of sleep uninterupted.  We had to pack up and check out for our next big ride – 100 km with about 10km of a steep incline.  I hadn’t eaten anything for about 36 hours and was so weak I could barely walk so I knew I couldn’t ride the bike.  I told our guides and they were very understanding and said it wouldn’t be a problem for me to ride on the bus.  I was just hoping I wouldn’t have to make an emergency pit stop along the way.

So exactly what was it that put me over the edge this time? I have a few ideas, you can’t be certain, but I think it was the ice in my cocktail at dinner the night before, eventhough others in the group say they have been okay with the ice.  I had asked for no ice in my drink but they brought it anyway and I was thinking, ‘this is a nice restaurant, I’m sure it will be fine.  I’m pretty sure it was the ice that got me the previous two times as well.  So I’ve now learned my lesson… Don’t drink the water!  Only use sealed bottled water, even to brush your teeth!  Don’t put ice in your drinks! Do not eat raw unpealed fruits and vegetables! And don’t stick your fingers in your mouth (I still have the habit of chewing my nails occasionally, and that could be another method of transmission).  Everyone knows the rules, but thousands of travelers still get sick every year.  You have to be vigilant.    If it does strike, don’t be a hero… take the medication provided by your doctor… chances are you will beat it down before it beats you.

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One Response to “Travelers Tummy Troubles (viewer discretion)”

  1. Karen C
    January 25 at 9:38 am #

    UGh! What a total drag. Shawn and Nick (from my nail salon) took their daughter to Vietnam for the first time when she was 14 and Shawn said she was so sick and miserable through most of the trip… poor girl couldn’t leave the bathroom at all and couldn’t wait to get home again. Hope it is better now & stays better for you. Can you find yogurt with probiotic anywhere? That might help too… xo

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