If you are traveling or on vacation, you will also get sick sometimes. This is annoying, but statistically happens to every third German. According to a representative survey by the health insurance company DAK, the most common illness during a vacation trip in 2019 was the classic cold, at 45 percent (2016: 31 percent). In second place is gastroenteritis, with six percent in 2019 and 13 percent the previous year.
If you travel to countries outside Europe and especially to tropical regions, gastrointestinal illnesses such as diarrhea or constipation are even in first place. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in five to two vacationers suffers from traveler's diarrhea. The risk of contracting the disease is higher than average in Africa, Asia and Latin America – for example in Morocco, Vietnam and Mexico.
Sick while traveling: Tips and interesting facts for quick help!
Nasty bacteria and travel stress as a cause
This is due to bacteria that are unknown to the body, which throw the intestinal flora out of balance and feel particularly comfortable at temperatures around 37 degrees Celsius and like to multiply. These then release toxins that the body does not get rid of so easily. But even the mere fact of changing places, having been on a plane for a long time beforehand, or simply being exposed to some other form of stress can have a negative impact on the physical well-being of the abdominal region.
And even the actually positive desire for new things can sometimes throw a spanner in the works: Germans in particular are open-minded about exotic dishes and new flavors at their vacation destination. Various surveys by tour operators have shown that women in particular are more willing to experiment on vacation than in everyday life at home.
What is supposed to be a culinary highlight can quickly become a health challenge. As tasty as the cuisine of other cultures is, many countries use spices and ingredients that the German or Central European palate is often not used to. In addition, many dishes are richer in fat and calories than one is used to in the local cuisine.
Do not underestimate the influence of hygiene
If the body is not yet used to them, it reacts quickly with bloating, flatulence, heartburn or stomach pain as well as nausea. Germans and their neighbors often underestimate the hygienic conditions under which food is prepared and eaten. Last but not least, especially on vacation, they tend to eat more than usual – with the corresponding consequences.
One of the most important rules of conduct when eating in foreign countries is therefore to choose freshly prepared, well-cooked dishes and fruit that you can peel yourself. Those who are not practiced in culinary exoticism should also avoid dressed salads, mayonnaise and creams – especially if these are offered on the buffet for a long time.
Also one should take as a newcomer at the vacation goal originally packed or boiled beverages to itself and if possible also with the tooth brushing germ-free water use. As a general rule, wash your hands thoroughly several times a day. It is also essential to drink plenty of fluids to replenish the body with lost electrolytes.
It is better to avoid diarrhea-stopping medications
Minor medical emergencies can be dealt with by including herbal medicines in the first-aid kit. For example, bitter ribbon flower (Iberis amara) helps. You should also carry ready-made electrolyte powders or solutions. These contain, among other things, dextrose, table salt and potassium chloride.
Travel medicine experts, however, warn against medications for traveler's diarrhea that temporarily suppress it. The reason: this measure gives pathogens time to multiply further or to penetrate the intestinal wall, which can make the symptoms even worse.
If the diarrhea is very acute, there are proven active ingredients against nausea and vomiting – for example, metoclopramide (such as Cerucal) or domperidone (Motilium). These alleviate discomfort and also prevent the liquid that has been added from being regurgitated. There are also preparations that bind water, toxins and inflammatory substances. They prevent dehydration and soothe irritated mucous membranes. Active ingredients in these medications include activated charcoal, pectin or kaolin.
If the diarrhea does not subside after about three days, or if you continue to have acute stomach pain or even blood in the stool and possibly a fever, a trip to the doctor or hospital is mandatory. In the worst case, you have been infected with a pathogen that can only be treated with antibiotics. In particularly extreme cases and in countries with very poor hygienic conditions, one should definitely exclude typhoid or cholera.
At the latest then the comes to the effect, which should have vacationers like long-term travelers absolutely always in the luggage. Thanks to it, a good supply is guaranteed even in private health facilities.
And if things get really "tough", vacationers are flown either to a special clinic or straight home by ambulance plane or by airliner (in a specially converted area). More information on security options