Travel 101: Peru is a beautiful country, and we’re about two months into a six month visit. However, it has not been completely kind to us in terms of overall health. Travelling you expect some setbacks from time to time, and if you’re smart you just learn to roll with the punches. I try to keep this blog positive, but I also feel a responsibility to keep it informative.
Most people have heard of the term traveler’s diarrhoea, but what is it exactly? Typically traveler’s diarrhoea is caused by the protozoa Giardia lambia or Cryptosporidium parvum. They are most often introduced into our digestive tract through contaminated water. Once the beasties are inside of us they cause all sorts of mischief.
Ever since we arrived in Peru we’ve been plagued by traveler’s diarrhoea. It will lay us low for a day or two, dissipate, and then revisit us with a vengeance. It is often debilitating causing: watery stools, vomiting, weight loss, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, fatigue and overall discomfort. Not to mention confinement to your room (where the toilet is). Traveler’s diarrhoea is the butt (get it?) of many a joke, but it’s not funny.
When we lived in Merida, Yucatan (bacteria and protozoa central for gringos), we discovered a treatment called Daxon (active ingredient: Nitazoxanide). Daxon uses a three prong approach to treat traveler’s diarrhoea: an anti-parasitic agent, an anti-bacterial agent and an anti-motility agent. In Merida many of the locals use it on a prophylactic (preventative) basis twice a year. Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that approach (I’m not a big fan of overusing medications) it is certainly effective.
So here’s my travel tip of the day: when traveling abroad stow a pack of this medication in your first aid kit; don’t wait until the problem hits to search it out (trust me, you don’t want to be visiting various pharmacies once you are afflicted). The prescribed cycle is 2 capsules a day (every 12-hours) for three days. It is quick and very effective. Most stateside doctors will only give you a prescription for the antibiotic Cipro when informed of your travel plans abroad (but Cipro doesn’t address parasitic causes).
Remember, the active ingredient is Nitazoxanide. In Mexico it is marketed under the name Daxon, in Peru it goes by the name Coluquim or Colufase. In the United States it is called Navigator (but may be hard to find although I’ve never looked). It’s not too expensive, and is well worth the effort (and preplanning) to keep a box in your travel kit. By the way, brother Joel is out buying me a box right now. I’ve fought this diarrhoea for two months, and it’s finally time to take some action. Shit happens.
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Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer and World Traveler