|Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)|
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. STEP allows you to enter information about your upcoming trip abroad so that the Department of State can better assist you in an emergency. Sign up for Travel Alerts.
No one likes having diarrhea or vomiting but it can be really miserable when you are far from home. Despite following food and water precautions, you might still get sick when you travel especially to Mexico and under developed countries.
If you are having significant diarrhea without vomiting and you have a prescription for an antibiotic such as ciprofloxin or azithromycin, start it. You may feel much better after one dose. Prescriptions such as these are given at your pre travel consultation. (Didn’t go to a travel clinic before your trip? Don’t make that mistake again.)
If you are vomiting, start with about a tablespoon of bottled water, tea, soda, or juice every 10 -15 minutes. If that doesn’t stay down, try a teaspoon every 10 minutes. If you have access to ice made with bottled water, suck on some ice chips. Some fluid can get absorbed through your mouth and feels good. If you have oral rehydration solution, mix that with bottled water to replace electrolytes. Avoid sports drinks as they are designed to replace fluids lost from perspiration not the stomach tract. Gradually add fluids and food as you feel better. If you just have water, add some foods with salt such as potato chips or pretzels.
Staying hydrated is very important , especially in a hot humid climate. If you have severe abdominal pain, a fever, or can’t hold anything down, develop blood in your stools, get very thirsty and continue to feel worse, seek health care.
Be sure to plan ahead for treating vomiting and diarrhea when away by bringing a prescription for an antibiotic, a thermometer, and oral rehydration salt packets.
Traveling in under developed countries poses some unique challenges. What if I get cut and need stitches? What if I have a dental emergency? Get diarrhea so bad I need IV rehydration? Will they have properly sterilized equipment?
You can purchase syringe and suture kits to take with you. These are not do it yourself kits. They are to be given to a trained health care provider to use on you in such emergencies.
Typically, these kits contain needles, suture materials, IV catheters, gloves and antiviral and antibacterial wipes to close wounds and start IV’s. They can be used to administer anesthetics for emergency dental procedures, too.
To help with going through customs, get a note from your travel clinic provider that states that these items are being used for personal use only. One kit from Adventure Medical Kits has declaratory statements about use printed on the outside in 8 different languages.
Many travel clinics, including Travel Health of New Hampshire, have these kits available for purchase. Hopefully you will never need to use such a kit, but in countries where blood borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis are common, it is reassuring to know that if you the equipment used on you is definitely sterile.