Traveler’s diarrhea, known colloquially as Montezuma’s Revenge or Mummy’s Tummy is the most common ailment affecting travelers. Here, we shall try to understand the care and treatment options required to overcome traveler’s diarrhea in children.
Most cases of traveler’s diarrhea occur in people traveling to high-risk destinations such as Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Traveler’s diarrhea can occur anytime during the travel, or even after the individual has returned home. The main source of infection is a kind of bacteria known as Enterotoxigenic Escherichia Coli (ETEC) found in contaminated food and water. People at high risk include children, those with low immunity, inflammatory bowel disease, or diabetics. Described below in further detail are the steps you should take to overcome this medical problem in children.
Symptoms of Traveler’s Diarrhea in Children
- Increased frequency of stools, with patients experiencing five or more watery bowel movements a day.
- Abdominal cramps, bloating, vomiting, nausea, dehydration, and a feeling of discomfort.
Signs of Dehydration in Children
- Dry skin. To ascertain this, do the Skin Turgor test – pinch and hold the skin with two fingers for a few seconds. If it does not flatten quickly, it is an indication that the child may be dehydrated.
- No wet diapers for three hours or more.
- Fever and restlessness.
- Reduced urine output or dark yellow urine.
- No tears while crying.
When traveling abroad, take extra precautions to prevent children from falling prey to diarrhea.
- Do not use tap water for drinking purposes. Use only boiled or bottled water (especially for mixing formula and baby food). Do not use ice in beverages. Avoid drinking water if its source is questionable.
- Avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables. Make sure what you eat is fully cooked.
- Do not eat unpasteurized milk and dairy products.
- Do not eat meat and seafood that is not thoroughly cooked.
- Avoid eating at roadside vendors and places that do not have proper sanitation facilities.
- Make sure that children wash their hands clean with soap before consuming food and do not come in contact with any infected persons. Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizers with you if you do not have access to hand washing facilities.
- If you are carrying any toys or pacifiers which children are likely to put in their mouth, be sure to wash them thoroughly with soap, especially if they are handled by others.
- Carry oral rehydration solution (ORS) sachets which are easily available at all pharmacies.
- If the child gets diarrhea, make sure he or she does not get dehydrated. Replace fluids quickly and use oral rehydration solutions. Sodas and fruit juices are not a good substitute for fluid replacement because they do not have the right balance of salt and sugar needed to replenish the body. Drink plenty of water. Do not give your child any caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee. If you do not have an electrolyte solution, make your own ORS by adding six teaspoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt to a quart of water.
- Maintain a regular diet for children. Continue breastfeeding if your infant demands it. If your toddlers have baby formula, continue its regular use. It’s a myth that intake of food deteriorates the condition. Food is necessary as it provides your body the energy lost due to dehydration. But be careful what you feed your children. Avoid foods high in sugar and fat. It is advisable to include yogurt, cereals (wheat, rice, bread), fruits and vegetables in their diet. You can also start your little ones on the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast).
- The most commonly prescribed antibiotic to treat diarrhea is Azithromycin. But do not use it unless prescribed by your pediatrician. Older children and teenagers can take antibacterial treatment with adjusted dosage, but only if it is recommended by your health care professional.
- Infants in diapers may develop a red itchy rash if they suffer from watery stools. Hydrocortisone creams may be applied to reduce the rash after a doctor’s advice.
- In case your child develops other symptoms like high fever, vomiting, severe dehydration, or has bloody stools, seek immediate medical help.
Traveler’s diarrhea usually cures itself in a few days if proper care is taken. The only thing to watch out for is that it should not worsen with dehydration. Before you travel, it is best to consult with your doctor about the risks and prevention methods for traveler’s diarrhea if children are accompanying you on foreign trips. Visit your doctor for travel shots and get up-to-date information on any travel-related illnesses.