Hydralyte’s Guide to Preventing and Managing Travel Dehydration
The risk of dehydration increases significantly when traveling. This is due to a number of reasons including anything from bacterial stomach infections to flight cabin conditions. Some of the main elements resulting in dehydration are:
- This is the most common health problem facing travellers to less developed countries – up to 50% of people traveling to destinations may experience traveller’s diarrhea. The World Health Organization identifies dehydration as the most severe threat posed by traveller’s diarrhea.
Dehydration from Air Travel
- Lack of humidity in a plane’s cabin air may also lead to dehydration during air travel for passengers, particularly during long-haul flights.
Heavy Sweating due to Prolonged Heat Exposure
- When you are traveling, you may visit hot and dry destinations where you are more likely to get hot and sweaty. Through sweat there is the loss of both fluid and electrolytes – this can lead to dehydration.
What Causes Traveller’s Diarrhea?
Traveller’s Diarrhea can be classified as three or more loose bowel movements with at least one of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps or pain, fever, or blood in the stool. Most cases of traveler’s diarrhea usually last for 3-7 days, enough to ruin any vacation. A person may become dehydrated after losing a significant amount of liquids from vomiting or diarrhea.
Traveller’s diarrhea is commonly caused by the Escherichia coli bacteria or E-Coli, a bacteria known to cause conditions, like vomiting and diarrhea, that can impact hydration levels. This bacteria can be encountered by consuming some form of contaminated food or water. Health Canada suggests only eating foods that have been cooked and served hot. Avoid foods that have been sitting out for a long time, such as buffets.
Common colloquial names for traveller’s diarrhea include: Stomach Flu, Delhi Belly, Rangoon Runs, Tourist, The Runs, The Trots, or Montezuma’s Revenge.
Countries where traveller’s diarrhea is a common occurrence have been deemed high-risk areas. These areas include Mexico, South America, parts of Asia, and Africa.
Other common causes of traveller’s diarrhea are from bacterial pathogens, such as Campylobacter, Shigella, or Salmonella. These are all bacteria that can be found in the drinking water in many of these high-risk areas. Fruits and vegetables are often washed with this same water. Viral and parasitic agents may also cause traveller’s diarrhea, but they are less common.
Managing Travellers Diarrhea and The Effects on Hydration
According to the World Health Organization, health risks associated with travel are greater for certain types of travellers, including:
- Infants and young children
- Pregnant women
- The disabled
- The immunocompromised
- Those who have pre-existing health problems
Rehydration is the most important aspect of managing traveller’s dehydration. When suffering from travelers diarrhea, anti-diarrhea medication does NOT replace lost fluid and electrolytes and only provides symptomatic relief.
In order to replenish those key electrolytes, you need an oral rehydration solution (Hydralyte). In addition to taking Hydralyte or any ORS, patients should also consider the following steps:
- Avoid high sugar drinks (e.g. soda or sports drinks, diluted cordial, or flat lemonade) – excess sugar can interfere with the rehydration process.
- Aim to drink at least 2–3 L of fluid a day. Refer to directions of use on pack when drinking Hydralyte.
- If hungry, eat dry starchy foods, e.g. dry toast, crackers.
Important: You cannot give anti-diarrhea medication to children under 12 years of age.
Learn more about managing dehydration associated with vomiting and diarrhea.
Tips to Avoid Traveller’s Diarrhea
- Drink boiled or bottled water and
- Avoid ice cubes
- Avoid eating raw foods
- Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it!
- Wash your hands!
- Avoid eating food from street vendors
- Consume “peel-able: fruit (i.e. bananas, oranges, avocados)
Avoid swimming and keep mouth closed when showering.
Planning a trip? The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends all travellers include an oral rehydration solution (Hydralyte) in their travel first aid kit.