By far, the most common traveller’s complaint is diarrhea. Travellers’ diarrhea is caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites found in local water supplies used for drinking, washing and preparing food..
The most important treatment for diarrhea is to get water back into your body. Drink plenty of safe fluids (bottled water, diluted juices or sports drinks) as soon as the problem starts. Ask your health care provider or travel health clinic for more information on self-treatment of diarrheal illness. Most cases of travellers’ diarrhea will clear up in a few days. If your symptoms persist for more than two days during travel or after you come home, or if you have bloody diarrhea or fever, you should see a health care provider.
Recreational drug and alcohol use
Although recreational drugs may be readily available in some countries, their purchase, consumption, import and export are prohibited virtually everywhere. If you break the law in another country, you are subject to that country’s judicial system. So don’t agree to transport, hold, buy or use illegal drugs under any circumstances.
Recreational drug use can also lead to serious safety risks, as well as physical and mental health problems. Drug dealers may not know (or reveal) exactly what they are selling; drugs laced with other substances or chemicals or contaminated by fungi or moulds can be harmful, resulting in bad drug reactions, including fatal overdoses.
Alcohol strengths vary widely, and the alcohol available on your travels might be stronger than what you’re used to. Some drinks, particularly alcoholic beverages, may contain harmful substances. The contents of any bottle, even brand-name bottles, may have been altered. Locally brewed liquors can be especially dangerous.
Don’t accept drinks from strangers – drugs may be added to beverages and put you at risk of sexual assault, robbery and other crimes. Also, be mindful that local laws may not tolerate drinking, especially binge drinking. The importation, possession and use of alcohol are strictly forbidden in some countries.
Sexually transmitted infections
If you have unprotected sex, you could be at risk of various sexually transmitted infections. Many sexually transmitted infections have periods with no symptoms when the infection can still be spread to others, so an infected individual may not even know he or she is at risk of transmitting disease. The risk for sexually transmitted infections is higher among travellers who engage in unprotected sex (anal, oral or vaginal), casual and/or anonymous sex and sexual activity with sex trade workers.
If you’re sexually active, follow these precautions for safer sex and to reduce the spread of infections:
• Pack a supply of high-quality latex or polyurethane male or female condoms before travelling. Use them consistently and correctly for every sexual activity.
• Be aware that other birth control methods do NOT protect you against HIV or other sexually transmitted infections.
• Discuss vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV) with a health care provider. There are no vaccines against other sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.