Dateline: Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico
Almost every traveler experiences what is sometimes know as traveler’s tummy, the trots, diarrhea, or, more commonly here in Mexico, as Montezuma’s Revenge. Most of these stomach problems are not life threatening in themselves and will pass within a few days. The most critical problem is dehydration. Small children and the elderly are at most risk for this but it can be a mortal danger to anyone.
According to Where There Is No Doctor, a village health care handbook by Werner, some signs of dehydration are: thirst; little or no urine; dark yellow urine; sudden weight loss; dry mouth; sunken, tearless eyes and loss of elasticity of the skin.
Treat dehydration first. Act quickly before the problem becomes critical. A mixture of 1/2 level teaspoon of common salt plus 8 level teaspoons of sugar with one liter of clean water provides a good dehydration drink. Add in a half-cup of coconut water, fruit juice or mashed ripe banana, if available. These replenish the potassium, which has been lost. Give frequent sips of this to the dehydrated person; 3 liters per day or more for an adult. Continue until urine is normal. If dehydration gets worse, seek medical help. An IV to replenish lost fluids may be necessary.
After the hydration issue is dealt with, there still remain the problems associated with diarrhea. This can range from a minor inconvenience to a severe attack with cramps, high fever, chills, nausea and dizziness. If you are in the middle of a trip, spending a few days in the hotel room (actually the bathroom of the hotel room) is just no fun after the first few times. Pink Pepto BismolÒ to the rescue! Pepto Bismol, or the local equivalent, is sold in most part of the world. It’s basically the same stuff wherever you purchase it (bismuth subsalicylate along with whatever makes it bright pink). Don’t use if allergic to aspirin. Follow the directions for diarrhea on the bottle: 2 Tablespoons or 30 ml every 1/2 to 1 hour as needed until the diarrhea stops. This might take a while. Be patient.
If you can’t be patient because, for instance, you need to get on an airplane for an extended time or the last launch up the Napo River is leaving at dawn, you might want to consider Cipro (ciprofloxacin). Some years ago, my MD gave me a prescription for Cipro to take along with me on my journeys in the event of diarrhea. His suggestion was one 500 mg tab per day for 6 or 7 days. That does work if you have the time to wait. Perhaps there will be another launch for the Napo early next week.
An anthropologist, with whom I was spending some time in a small Mayan village where I contracted a severe case of diarrhea, told me the official anthropologists method. And that is three 500mg tabs of Cipro the first day (all at once), two tabs the second day and one tab the third. Since that time, I have used this method a number of times and can attest that it really works! Usually the first day, I am really whipped (no pun intended); but by the morning of the second day am able to jump in the launch or get where I need to be without discomfort or embarrassment. I am not an MD so I cannot suggest that you use this method, but it has worked for me.
As an aside, both Pepto-Bismol and Cipro should be in your travel case wherever you travel. Pepto-Bismol is good for heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, and nausea as well as for diarrhea. Cipro is great for diarrhea as well as lower respiratory infections (pneumonias), urinary tract infections, STDs and is the drug of choice in case of a surprise anthrax attack in the middle of the jungle. Cirpo is available, in Mexico, at most pharmacies without a prescription; in the USA a MD's prescription in necessary.