Asia Bombay Travel Disasters Travel Tips

Delhi Belly, Traveller’s Diarrhea – What to Do

Delhi Belly or Traveller's Diarrhea How to Avoid it and Survive it

Travel. It’s not all glamorous jet-setting, stunning sunsets and mind-blowing experiences.  As unpleasant as it is, sometimes travel leads to you feeling as though your insides are going to explode, and that you may die.

The curse of the traveller lies in often inevitable bouts of dodgy stomach, traveller’s diarrhea, Delhi belly, or the Aztec Two-Step. Whatever you call it, it’s no fun.

My philosophy is that it is well worth the horror. Although you may find yourself crouched over a hole in the ground as cramps spasm through you, or sweating profusely as you desperately try to figure how to flush a toilet that just will not flush, once the nightmarish ordeal is over, you will look back on it in an almost fond way, as the details fade, and all you remember of the ordeal is the stunning location where you nearly shit your pants.

 

If you are about to set off on a backpacking trip, you may be wondering;

 

Will I get the dreaded Delhi Belly?

Short answer, more than likely.

 

But, don’t panic. There are many, many people who manage to travel safely without ever having to deal with the dreaded problem. I am not one of them.

 

In order to minimise your chances of getting struck down you should ….

  • Wash your hands often. If there’s no soap, use hand sanitiser, especially after using the bathroom.
  • Use your judgement to weigh up the risks of having a salad or an iced drink.
  • Stay hydrated- water flushes bad stuff out, so if you keep drinking water you may be able to get rid of the bastards quicker.

Other ‘rules’ for avoiding traveller’s diarrhea:

  •  They say you shouldn’t drink anything with ice.
  •  No salads or peeled fruit
  •  No street food.
  • Keep your mouth closed in the shower (I don’t really get this one, as I never really shower with my mouth wide open!)
  • Don’t use tap water to brush your teeth

These are rules I never really stick to. An icy fruit shake or lassi is absolutely amazing in a hot and humid country. Fruit is good for you, and fresh pineapple or watermelon from a street food stall is perfection on a hot day. Salad isn’t something I eat that much when in places like Asia, but when I do, nothing bad has happened. And in my opinion, visiting a country and not trying the street food is crazy. Don’t let the fear of a dodgy stomach make you miss the chance to sample street food!

street food of Bangkok fruit

In saying that, the actual culprit in these situations is often a mystery. One friend swore it was from eating way too many oranges in all the shakes we were having in Thailand, another said it was the ice.

When I got the really bad dose in India, which lasted for days, I was convinced it was from the cheese on a pizza. In Varanasi, we were craving a delicious pizza we had had a few nights before. The restaurant where we had eaten was closed and so we had to go to another. After eating the meal, my stomach felt strange. It was hard to explain, but I felt like the meal was sitting funny. Then the next day, hello hell!

In Vietnam, I had a really bad episode where I couldn’t keep anything down, even water was making me run to the bathroom.

I didn’t know what the cause was. By the time we had arrived in Vietnam, it had struck. I ruled out Vietnam and guessed it had to have happened in Cambodia, but I have no idea what it was from.

I am terrible when it comes to only rinsing your toothbrush with bottled water. I do try at first, but you just can’t rinse your toothbrush properly by trickling bottled water over it. I use bottled water to rinse my mouth out, but I think that a toothbrush needs a little more water pressure.

I often rinse the toothbrush with tap water, shake it off, and then pour some bottled water over it.

In India, I managed to be more careful, probably because of the fact that I had contracted the Delhi belly so early into the trip and didn’t want to a repeat situation.

How to Survive Delhi Belly

wpid-toilet-in-china_wm.jpg.jpeg

 

  • Know that it will pass. Eventually.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • If possible, stay close to a toilet. In Varanasi, our guesthouse had a rooftop garden, and so when the tell-tale cramps kicked in, it was only a short flight of stairs down to our bathroom.
  • If you are so ill that you can’t eat, well, try to eat anyway. You need to get some nutrients into you. Most places will serve bread, so nibble on that. Or rice.
  • Coke etc can go both ways, literally. The sugar and taste may help keep you alive, but the fizziness may cause your stomach to rumble right up your throat.
  • Drink Water. As much as you can. Delhi Belly is a sure-fire way to get dehydrated.
  • Rehydration sachets are miracle makers- In all the pre-trip hysteria that travel nurses are prone to, the most important goodies to grab are the sachets.

I have no medical proof of this, but after 5-6 days of the worst case of Delhi belly in Vietnam, I was beginning to get scared. Even water wasn’t staying down, and I was worried it was something more serious.

I drank a congealing sachet I had been carrying around with me, and within a day, and three sachets, I was back to normal.

  • Stoppers are your best friend.

I had never heard of these before, but when my sister was leaving to go to South America, her zealous travel nurse gave her a prescription for ‘stoppers’ which basically stop you needing to go.

In Australia, our nurse mentioned them, and I grabbed at them. My sister swore by them for those 24 hour bus journeys in South America.

And so, when we had to leave Varanasi on an overnight train to Agra, I wasn’t taking any chances. I took one and it worked like a charm.

The only thing is that it worked a bit too well and I had no need to go to the bathroom for a good 48 hours or so. But hey, I’d chose that over a dodgy stomach on an overnight train any day.

 

So, there you have it, my slightly too-revealing advice about all things Delhi Belly. I hope that you’re never cursed with it, but it’s all part of the travelling experience and in the grand scheme of things, so, so, so worth it!

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    Michelle
    January 7, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    Scary post, but an informative one to read as well! 🙂
    Michelle recently posted…Unhealthy Habits That May Be Making You PoorMy Profile

  • Reply
    Tim
    January 13, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    The “Belly” is almost like a right of passage for travelers. Not the most pleasant experience but as you say, when you look back it is amazing how you were able to produce that much liquid, spin that many times in a circle and time the output from each route so perfectly to avoid mental scarring, or hang on just long enough (even though it seems like hours) as the bus pulls into the next station….not to mention the horror of some of the toilets that lay in wait for you. But you don’t care 🙂
    Tim recently posted…Box Beetles of Death ValleyMy Profile

  • Reply
    Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie)
    January 14, 2015 at 1:26 am

    Sounds pretty scary to me…and I have had it in Mexico. But only once. It’s been 20 years, but I don’t look back on it fondly! LOL I’m just grateful that’ve only had it once, given the traveling that I used to do!
    Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) recently posted…Positive Thinking… Where’s The Justice?My Profile

  • Reply
    Yvonne @ Lost with Yvonne
    January 14, 2015 at 3:18 am

    Thanks for the tips! I have fortunately never had this issue, but nice to know tips before it will ever happen. And this is a post everyone needs to know because it happens all the time even when you’re just in your usual hometown!
    Yvonne @ Lost with Yvonne recently posted…Fall in le Jardin du LuxembourgMy Profile

  • Reply
    Susan Cooper
    January 14, 2015 at 4:52 am

    I’ve had this happen on a trip before… No fun!! I also had a friend who got food poisoning from a Caesar salad at a beautiful resort in Acapulco. He was in the hospital and they were just ready to take out his appendix, when they raised it was food poisoning!! Scary. I stay away from the salads.

  • Reply
    Ken Dowell
    January 14, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    I’m with you when it comes to eating the street food. It’s an essential part of experiencing the culture. It’s also one of the great areas of discovery when you travel. I can think of just as many great things I found on street carts as I have found in upscale restaurants.
    Ken Dowell recently posted…Americans Discover Vacation: While Disparaging TouristsMy Profile

  • Reply
    Erica
    January 14, 2015 at 8:17 pm

    Wow, what an experience! I’m sorry you had to go through that. But hey, at least you got an amazing story out of the deal. Thank you for the tips for Delhi belly. I hope never to use them, but I will remember them if I do. My husband and I went to Las Vegas in late October and he was poisoned by an all you can eat buffet. Purging half of your body weight is never a fun way to spend any vacation!
    Erica recently posted…Tips for For Soaking, Sprouting and Eating Healthy NutsMy Profile

  • Reply
    Lenie
    January 15, 2015 at 7:40 am

    I have heard about Delhi Belly, but since I’m not a traveler have never experienced it. That didn’t stop me from enjoying your article – if you can enjoy an article about your chosen topic LOL. I’m glad you found a solution with the ‘stoppers’. Sounds like they belong in every traveler’s pack.
    Lenie recently posted…Avon Bubble Bath, A Multi-TaskerMy Profile

  • Reply
    Becoming SuperMommy
    January 15, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    India is at the top of my list for dream trips, so I will DEFINITELY keep this in mind when I (finally) go!
    Becoming SuperMommy recently posted…Someday, Maybe, To My Transgender ChildMy Profile

  • Reply
    Bren
    January 20, 2015 at 6:03 am

    I’ve had a lot of success in less than clean countries with Dukaral – it’s an oral vaccine that protects you from traveler’s diarrhea for 3 months. Really easy to take – two drinks, and I would guess most travel health clinics and GP’s would have it. If you constantly have stomach problems on the road give it a try!
    Bren recently posted…Tokyo: Just A Little Bit OverratedMy Profile

  • Reply
    Lexi
    February 2, 2015 at 12:36 am

    I thought I had escaped the “delhi belly” on our trip to India until the very last few days when it caught up with me! Boo!

  • Reply
    Best Female Travel Blogs 2015
    February 25, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    […] Post you’ll love: Delhi Belly, Traveler’s Diarrhea — What to Do […]

  • Reply
    Annika Ziehen
    February 27, 2015 at 6:18 am

    I am still recovering from a mild case while I read this and couldn’t agree with your tips more. Especially the rehydrations powders are something that I never travel without and while you can usually get some wherever you go to, it is soo good to just have them handy at your bed side without having to search for a pharmacy.
    By the way – a bit of tiger balm under the nose takes away a lot of aweful other smells and helps with the nausea.

  • Reply
    firly austine
    September 17, 2015 at 3:21 am

    scary story to me . but thank you , already provide useful information. 🙂

  • Reply
    Varanasi - What to Expect in India's Spiritual City - The Traveloguer Travel Blog
    January 11, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    […] I would have liked. I was sick when we arrived there, and was then struck down with a bad case of Delhi belly, so my appetite wasn’t what it normally would be. I didn’t even feel like taking photos […]

  • Reply
    Anderson
    June 27, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Good Article! I wanna share my travel experience. When I was traveling to Bangkok, I faced the problem of chronic Diarrhea, I was skeptical about using Grocare Natural product for treating my chronic diarrhea but the results amazed me. It has significantly reduced the symptoms of Diarrhea and has eased the pain caused by the condition. So far, it has been successful in reducing the effects of infection.

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