• Travelers’ Diarrhea, it only takes one tiny tomato- A personal Story from a Travel Health Nurse

    by Travel Health RN
    on Mar 20th, 2017

Three days in Cancun, Mexico seems like an awfully short time to get sick, however my husband and I are both proof that all it takes is one tomato.

I practice travel medicine for a living.  In fact, I account myself responsible for giving travelers the most accurate and up to date advice on how to avoid getting sick.  I try to take this advice myself when I travel, but this time somehow, things went belly up. 

From the very beginning, everything seemed picture-perfect.  We were at a wonderful resort.  The water was a perfect blue-green, our room had a beautiful balcony with an ocean view, and there were restaurants all over the resort beckoning us to try their cuisine.

Of course we decided to try the “authentic Mexican restaurant” first.  We started off with guacamole and chips which was undeniably delicious.  We both ordered chicken enchiladas in a green sauce.  Everything was cooked.  Everything was hot (just as I always tell my patients).  At some point I noticed there was one little cherry tomato on each plate and for some reason gave it no more thought.  Two seconds after I swallowed it, I realized what I had just done.   I looked at my husband’s plate and realized his was gone too.  I did not tell him what was going to happen to him in hopes that I was wrong.

I wasn’t wrong.  The next morning we woke with rumbling tummies.  At first it wasn’t so bad.  A little cramping, a little discomfort, but I knew this was not the end.  We went to the breakfast buffet and loaded up on bread and bananas, as I knew in my heart of hearts where this was heading.  In about two hours both of us had diarrhea. 

I can certainly get into detail about the 24 hours we spent in our lovely hotel room, but I won’t.  I am sure anyone reading this will get the point.  The story ends when we finally decided to take a dose of the Cipro I brought in my emergency travel kit.  And luckily, this story did end.  In just a few hours we were feeling well enough to venture out and enjoy the last day of our trip.

So, what should every traveler remember?  Well, first and foremost, no matter how diligent you are, how much information you have, there is always a chance that you will be at the mercy of travelers’ diarrhea.  This is why it is so important to have something with you for self-treatment.  In my case, Cipro saved my short trip.  Second, even at the nicest resorts, tomatoes are washed in tap water, as are all vegetables and fruits.  And last but not least, prior to any exotic, or even not-so-exotic trip, it is always best to seek the advice of a travel health provider to gain an understanding of what can make you ill, what symptoms to expect, and how to treat yourself if absolutely necessary.

Author Travel Health RN

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