Montezuma's Revenge Symptoms & Avoidance Tips
It seems impossible to have a conversation about a trip to Mexico with a bunch of friends without enduring at least one reference to Montezuma’s Revenge- the ever-so-dreaded bout of gastrointestinal discomfort so often associated imbibing the country’s untreated tap water.
As it happens, Mexico is not the only country in which travelers get hit with... er... toilet problems. Montezuma’s Revenge is really just a localized name for a broader, international condition referred to as traveler’s diarrhea.
Traveler’s diarrhea affects anywhere between 20 to 50 percent of international travelers- that’s roughly 10 million people every year, so if you do get Montezumas Revenge, you’re in good (and by no means scant) company. In addition to enjoying safety in numbers, you should also know that, should you be smote down by this less-than-dignified blight, you’ll hardly be down for the count. Traveler’s diarrhea really isn’t so bad. Let’s have a look at common symptoms and causes of this jet-set malady. If you stay with me long enough, I’ll even share some convenient avoidance tips. Tallyho!
Other Funny Names for TD
- Montezuma's Revenge
- Pharo's Revenge
- Mummy's tummy
- Cairo two-step
- Aztec two-step
- Delhi Belly
Montezuma's Revenge Symptoms
You know you have traveler’s diarrhea when you have:
- Had three or more...
- unformed stools (hehee! Stools!)
- … within a 24 hour period
Now that’s not so bad, is it?
Other symptoms accompanying this basic qualifying requirement may include:
- Loss of appetite
- A low fever
- Abdominal cramps
- General malaise
- Diarrhea (that’s like... “unformed stools” in NINJA form!
- The urgent need to run to the bathroom
I know this sounds pretty gnarly, but to be perfectly honest with you (and to share far too much information), I’ve had traveler’s diarrhea TONS of times and have’t even realized it! I just thought poo was always funny-looking in China. Kind of like how the water supposedly flushes in a different direction in Australia. Sometimes stuff comes out funny. Sometimes you’re a little bloated. Who cares? YOU’RE ON AN ADVENTURE FOR THE LOVE OF BLOG!
Common Causes of Traveler's Diarrhea
So... what causes this charming condition? You’ll wish you hadn’t asked! Traveler’s diarrhea is usually caused by ingesting or drinking fecally (that means POO!!) contaminated food or water. This is why traveler’s diarrhea is more common in developing country, where water treatment plants aren’t so crazy advanced.
Now poo itself is gross, but it’s really the wee creatures living inside it that cause you to toot in an undignified manner. The most common culprit are bacteria (especially e. coli and salmonella), but viruses and even protozoans are known to get you better acquainted with the Throne while on the road.
Why Aren't Locals Affected?
You might feel as though Montezuma’s Revenge is, like, totallyunfair because the locals are drinking the water and appear to be totally fine. Well, you would be totally fine, too, had you grown up in the area. You see, folks who find themselves ingesting bacterially-infected water year after year end up building up some decent defenses. You, Mr. Fancy Tourist Man, having grown up on Fancy Clean Water, don’t have these defenses. So it’s unformed stools for you, all the way!
How to Avoid Montezuma's Revenge
Even though the symptoms of Traveler’s Diahhrea are not so bad, you probably want to avoid it if at all possible. I guess that’s understandable. Here’s what you can do:
- Only drink bottled water (if you don’t have access to bottled water, you’ll need to boil water for 3-5 minutes, filter water with chlorine bleach, or iodine, or use UV purification device)
- Don’t drink shower water
- Don’t get pool, cenote, or ocean water in your mouth
- Brush your teeth with bottled water (this is for those who really want to be on the conservative side. I never do this, but many of my buddies do)
- Only eat cooked food
- Avoid raw fruits or veggies unless you peel them yourself
- Avoid salads- even if they’ve been properly cleaned, they’re kind of gross because you can taste the detergent used to clean them
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If You Get Traveler's Diarrhea...
… DON’T PANIC! It’s fine. It happens all the time. Just... keep somewhat close to a toilet, stay plenty hydrated (with bottled water), and take comfort in the knowledge that the discomfort will pass in three to five days.
WARNING - You may have something WORSE than traveler’s diarrhea if...
- Diarrhea with blood int it
- An abundance of diarrhea with flecks of mucus (gross to the power of OMG)
- Abdominal pain
- High fever
- Shaking or chills
- Diahhrea for more than 72 hours
- Rapid onset of malaise and weakness
If you are exhibiting any of these symptoms, GO SEE A DOCTOR FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! It could be cholera. Cholera could leave you dead in as soon as 24 hours as a result of severe dehydration. It could also be amoebic dysentery, Giardia, a parasitic infection, or helminths. None of these things are good news, and unlike traveler’s diarrhea, probably won’t pass by on their own.
My "Hilarious" Story
WARNING: STOP READING IF YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF TO BE “POLITE COMPANY”
For example, I was once traveling in China when I was hit by a particularly... colorful bout of traveler’s diarrhea. I thought that was bad enough, but when I want to flush the toilet in my hotel room, the darn thing rebelled against me and OVERFLOWED! There was TD water alllll over the bathroom floor. Isn’t travel glamorous?
I hope this overview of Montezuma’s Revenge and traveler’s diarrhea has made you less afraid of the condition, and more willing to take an adventurous jump south of the border- and to third world countries everywhere!
As you can see, it is fairly easy to avoid contracting this unfortunate malady, and even if you do fall pray to the odd bacterium, it won’t be too terrible, plus you’re hardly the only one to be getting your money’s worth of hotel and restaurant toilets.
Besides... sometimes traveler’s diarrhea can result in some hilarious stories!
Do you have a funny traveler’s diarrhea story? SHARE IT IN THE COMMENTS! Life is too short to be proper and non-gross.
And happy traveling!!
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