Scott Hanselman

Arusha Tanzania 2006 Day 20 - Waiting for death's sweet release

December 21, 2006 Comment on this post [5] Posted in Africa
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I spent the better part of yesterday sitting on the toilet waiting to die. I never though I'd start a blog post with that sentence, but you just never know, eh? Seems that I'd caught my first case of TD - Traveller's Diarrhea, Dear Reader. I feel I know you well enough to share my lower tract distress, we've been together so long. Four continents and never a problem, but there's a first time for everything. I've always been "prepared" for it to happen, but one becomes a little complacent when one has had no problems for so long.

When visiting another country, no matter how developed, there's always a chance you'll pick up a stomach bug that you're not familiar with. I believe I saw some statistics that said that 30-40% of folks who visit Africa will have at least a small bout with TD. 7-10% of folks who visit the US or Canada from another country will as well. It's just one of those things.

Here's some things you can do to prevent and treat TD. They've worked for me for years, until yesterday.

  • Ask for your drinks with no ice. Very often, especially in the states, ice is more contaminated than water.
  • Avoid unwashed fruits, or fruits and veggies without skin that can be peeled off. We've been eating a lot of bananas, but I've avoided mangoes because the skin's a hassle.
  • Check the seal on your bottled water, and don't be afraid to ask a local what the preferred local bottled water is. Apparently here in Tanzania, Kilimanjaro bottled water is well thought of.
  • Get a prescription ahead of time for Cipro. Cipro is the "Hammer of Thor" when it comes to TD. Just one day later and I feel 90% better. I don't like using antibiotics because I'd like to avoid creating a super-bug, but Cipro seriously works on just about anything TD related. I happened to have six 500mg Cipros with me on this trip and needed 3 to feel better.
  • Ask for your meat cooked medium or well-done, and avoid fish if you're extra paranoid. My mom and dad (=paranoid) are also brushing their teeth using bottle water, although Mo and I aren't worried that much. Maybe I should have worried more. :)

When you've got this urgent little problem, especially if it's a short trip like a week or two, it can be very distressing and mess up the whole itinerary, so it pays to be prepared. In this case, it only cost me a day, so that's not too bad.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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December 21, 2006 23:39
That is your funniest post of the year!
December 22, 2006 3:28
You must take the entire course of Cipro, otherwise you risk producing a super-bug. You've punished your bacteria, but not necessarily killed them. All the ones who didn't die and got shot out your rear end are potentially Cipro-resistant, ready to continue the struggle in some other poor Western sod's gut!
December 22, 2006 9:34
I make yearly trips to India and I'll tell you right now your parents have the right idea brushing with bottled water. It might seem paranoid, but its something I started doing since my last two trips. I didn't get any TD or vomitting after following this strict regiment. Its a pain in the ass, but its well worth it. If you're paranoid enough to drink exclusively from a bottle, you should also be paranoid enough to rinse exclusively with one :)
December 22, 2006 21:06
This article has the most humorous beginning and the most informative ending! Yes, you are correct about the US having a similar but smaller problem with this. When we visit New Mexico to see my mom, we drink ONLY bottled water. Brushing teeth isn't quite as bad, but full doses of the H2O can cause these symptoms depending on the locale. Remember, it can strike ANYWHERE...
December 24, 2006 6:02
It may or may not be about some places having cleaner water than others ... at the end of the day, anywhere could have a bug that you just don't have resistance to. And for that reason, it does so pay to rinse with bottled water. Alternatively, you can take the plunge and hope the pain results in immune resistance for your next trip :)

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.