I never traveled to Delhi. As a matter of fact, I have never been to India as a whole. But I do have Crohn’s disease, which equals a weekly dose of the Delhi Belly. You can read more about it here. I have suffered my fair share of Montezuma’s Revenge. I am an expert on dealing with tummy turmoil. After all those years of bad days at home and on the road I become an expert on how to stop traveler’s diarrhea and now I share my tips on how to get rid of Delhi Belly.
What is Delhi Belly?
Delhi Belly is a bad case of traveler’s diarrhea. It is an infection of the stomach and intestines. So it’s not just bad food causing turmoil in the tummy. It is a full on infection. Caused by an infected bacteria.
Usually you’ll get it because you ate some food which was not handled in a sanitary way. In other words: the hot dog vendor did not wash his hands after he went to the bathroom.
This can happen anywhere in the world. But according to techtimes, 1/3 of the world’s population is still without a toilet. So it’s more common in the lesser developed countries of the world, which we all like to travel to. But how to get rid of Delhi Belly? I tell you!
What are the symptoms of Montezuma’s Revenge?
You are infected by the bad bacteria and you might not even notice it. Then you have a strong stomach or a good immune system. All the rest of us will suffer from abrupt and intense diarrhea. My biggest travel fear. Sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
I mean, the stuff has to get out in some way or another.
You might suffer from bloating and might experience the urge to run to the toilet more often than necessary. Your tummy is working hard, so you might experience painful gas passing, cramps, loss of appetite and some fever.
Have you ever suffered from these symptoms? You might have caught the wrong bug. And now you’d like to know how to get rid of Delhi Belly?
How to get rid of Delhi Belly?
You’re so careful. You wash your hands and only drink bottled water. But still you caught it. During the evening, your felt a bit queasy and went to bed early. But all of a sudden, you wake up in the middle of the night and you make a run for the toilet.
As you’re emptying your bowels, you sweat, you have cramps.
You feel awful.
You know it: you shouldn’t have eaten that kebab from the street vendor. You ask yourself why you insisted on having that salad during lunch. You don’t know anymore, but all you know is: you want to get rid of this Delhi Belly as soon as possible. What should you do? How to get rid of Delhi Belly? I give you 4 effective steps to stop traveler’s diarrhea.
#1. Take the day off and rest
Now is the time to call in sick. Don’t have a job? Can’t call your boss? Doesn’t matter. You need to rest.
Take it easy. Stay in bed and near a toilet. The first 24 hours of Montezuma’s Revenge are the most intense. You will stay in today.
In order to stop the traveler’s diarrhea, your body needs to fight the infection. And this takes energy and time. So cancel that tour. Don’t go out and don’t buy those bus tickets down town. Do not travel today and don’t go out for that free walking tour. Stay in bed and rest.
#2. Drink plenty of fluids
You need to hydrate yourself. Read more about the symptoms of dehydration here. With the content of your stomach coming out like lava, you also lose a lot of fluids.
Basically everything that comes out is water only in a different colour. Even if you feel like you should puke, make sure to drink a little bit of water each few minutes. It’s better to drink little sips than gulp down half a pint in 1 go.
Make sure to drink bottled water or water that has boiled intensely. Do not drink alcohol, fruit juices or anything with ice.
#3. Get yourself some ORS
ORS stands for Oral Rehydration Solutions. It’s a mix of sugar, natrium and calium. You can buy it at any pharmacy and I recommend taking some sachets or tablets with your anywhere you go.
You do not want to run to a pharmacy in the centre of Kathmandu and put up a show in front of the pharmacist where you demonstrate that water is bursting from your bum. Although hilarious, not the best way to do it.
Buy your ORS before you leave here.
In case you find yourself in the middle of the Gobi desert (like me!), without any ORS, you can always make it yourself.
Make your own ORS
I was traveling in Mongolia when I got a bad case of the Delhi Belly. If you’re curious as to why I still think Mongolia is the best place to travel, read my 9 things to experience in Mongolia. I needed to stop the traveler’s diarrhea but didn’t have any ORS with me. In that case there are 2 things you can do:
- Ask for a can of cola and add 1/3 teaspoon of salt to it. It might not taste good, but the sugar in the drink and the added salt will have the same effect as ORS.
- Make your own ORS with 8 teaspoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 litre water. I have a special spoon for it, which you can buy for a buck at many pharmacies or travel stores.
Take some ORS every time you go to the bathroom and get rid of some stomach content. I think ORS is the best answer to how to get rid of Delhi Belly because it works instantly. I took it also when I explored the Iranian deserts and it worked like a charm for me. Now I never travel anywhere without it.
I did travel when I caught the Delhi Belly in Mongolia and I didn’t drink anything anymore because we didn’t have any clear water in the desert. I was dehydrated, parched and I couldn’t walk by myself anymore. I had a fever and kept vomiting.
I should have done so many things differently but when our host family gave me a can of cola and some salt, I instantly felt better. I managed to make some ORS with a little bit of water and felt so much better that same day. Although traveler’s diarrhea will not kill you, dehydration might be the thing that lands you in a hospital. Make sure it doesn’t go that far.
Read more: How to pack medication when flying?
#4. Go see the doctor
I’m not a fan of self medicating or experimenting with any store bought drugs. I take enough medication for Crohn’s, as you can read here, and I do not know how my body responds to anything new.
When I take anything like Pepto-Bismol or Imodium, I get constipated for weeks and that might even hurt more.
So my advice, when all the above doesn’t help and after 48h hours you still cannot hold down any food and still experience the chocolate lava.. Then it’s time to see a doctor. Or a pharmacist who can help you with any store bought medication. If you have bloody stools or do not trust the situation, it’s always best to consult a doctor sooner than later.
I hope you’ll never get to experience Montezuma’s Revenge. Or suffer from Delhi Belly. But in case you do, I hope my 4 steps give an answer on how to cure Delhi Belly quickly.
They will help you get back on the road in no time. Rest plenty, drink enough water. Rehydrate yourself with some ORS and in case it takes too long, go see a doctor for some medication to fight the infection. Let’s all stay healthy while traveling.
More tips on hot to stay healthy during your travels.
How to prevent Traveler’s Diarrhea
It is always better to prevent getting ill on the road than to find a cure, so here are some quick tips. You might not avoid getting sick all the time but good personal hygiene will go a long way.
- Wash your hands. Before touching food, after going to the toilet and when you’ve had a long day of touching hand rails, shaking hands, handling money and the likes. Don’t become obsessed with it (do not sanitize your hands after shaking someones hand, that is just rude) but do it regularly. I always carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with me.
- Use wipes to refresh your face and hands. Do not flush them down the toilet and only use 1 at a time, but they can keep you clean and healthy.
- Don’t eat raw and uncooked food. Salads are usually washed with normal water which might not agree with your stomach. Ice-cubes are usually made with the local tap water, avoid them. Only eat fruit that you can peel yourself.
- Use your judgement for eating out. There is nothing wrong with a street vendor’s food as long as he prepares the food in front of you (and doesn’t take it from a heating plate where it has been sitting for the last 5 hours).
- Eat at places that are busy and have many other customers there. Chances that you’ll be served yesterday’s food are lower. Restaurants with a high turn around rate are more likely to serve fresh foods and cook to order.
- Don’t eat at places that are too crowded where all the food is standing outside and waiting to be served. This is usually the case at tour group lunch restaurants and buffet dinners. Better avoid or ask to have something freshly cooked in front of you.
- Practice good toilet hygiene. Squat, wipe, rinse if possible, wipe again if needed. And wash your hands, preferably sanitize them.
- Don’t touch your mouth or nose. I caught myself constantly resting my face in my hands, touching my lips, biting my nails. Refrain from this as much as possible. (this includes picking your nose).
- Be careful what you touch. At home, we always hold the rail of the stairs when ascending. But do you really need to do that in the crowded Moscow subway?
- Don’t play with the money in your pocket. According to this article, there are 3,000 types of bacteria on our money. Keep it in your wallet and only touch it when you need to spend it. Same applies for tokens or other kind of ticket stubs.
Have you ever experienced the worst case of Delhi Belly? Ever caught yourself in the desert without any good water to drink? How did you handle the situation? What is your best tip on how to stop traveler’s diarrhea? Please share your story in the comment section below.
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