How to Deal With Traveler’s Diarrhea in Beijing

by Duncan on July 21, 2010

upset-stomach-beijingHopefully this subject won’t be too uncomfortable of a read, but traveler’s diarrhea (拉肚子la1du4zi0) is a real issue that many of our students at 1on1Mandarin have experienced on arrival to China, and it even affects permanent expat residents in China every now and then- though perhaps you might want to save this read for a time when you’re not eating or snacking on something.

Traveler’s diarrhea is usually caused by eating unclean food or water, though normal diarrhea can also be caused by anxiety, stress, allergies, fatigue, and changes in diet- all of which are things that a new visitor to Beijing will encounter as they adjust to this densely populated city, and experience the culture shock of adjusting.

Symptoms:

The symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea are four to five loose or watery stools per day, though vomiting can also be a symptom. Traveler’s diarrhea usually lasts 3 or 4 days, and only a few cases does it last longer; in some rare cases, it can last more than 3 months.

Treatment:

pepto-bismolTwo of the popular drugs that many travelers take are bismuth subsalicylate (which is found in Pepto-Bismol), and Imodium. Taking Pepto-Bismol tablets before travel, and during travel, can help to prevent many cases of diarrhea, though some travelers like to carry the liquid form with them and take a dose before a meal (I would recommend that you read the CDC site for Traveler’s Diarrhea on recommended usage though). Imodium can also be taken to provide quick relief by reducing the muscle spasms in the gastrointestinal tract.

Unfortunately, Pepto-Bismol is not easy to come by in Beijing, and is only sold by some of the international clinics and hospitals in the city. Imodium, however, is more commonly found among the pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals. It’s best to prepare well, and bring some from your home country before arriving in Beijing, to avoid having to search around the city when you need it the most.

If you’re really having trouble finding these drugs in the city, you may find some willing and helpful incoming expats on the forums thebeijinger and Chinese-forums.com that are may offer a helping hand to bring some extra in with them, provided you pay them back, of course.

Finally, don’t forget to rehydrate if you’re experiencing traveler’s diarrhea. Dehydration is very common result of the fluid loss, and a useful recipe for fluid replacement is:

Two glasses of fluid: the first glass containing 8 oz. of fruit juice, 1/2 tsp. of honey or corn syrup, and a pinch of salt, and the second glass filled with 8 oz. of purified or carbonated water and 1/4 tsp. of baking soda, and the traveler should drink alternately from each glass until their thirst is quenched.

For additional reading on traveler’s diarrhea:

Wikipedia: Traveler’s Diarrhea

Center for Disease Control: Traveler’s Diarrhea

University of Maryland- Medical Center: Traveler’s Diarrhea

Do you have any tips or advice? Let us know in the comments!

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