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    Don’t Get Caught With Your Pants Down

    Let’s set the scene: You’ve been working hard at your job, even putting in overtime hours all winter long and you’re exhausted. You feel drained and the cold, dreary weather isn’t helping the situation at all. So you decide it’s finally time for some much needed sunshine therapy and book a one week tropical getaway in the Caribbean where your biggest decision of the day will be “beach or poolside.” You make sure your passports are valid, you book your flights, pack extra sunscreen and the cutest new swimwear you just picked up at the mall and you are on your way to paradise, leaving all your worries behind…or so you thought.

    You arrive to your island getaway and are greeted at the resort with an ice-cold Pina Colada, a live reggae band playing in the open-aired lobby with a view directly down to the white sandy beach and turquoise ocean and you breathe in a deep breath of that salty sea air and know that the next seven days are going to be bliss.

    You head to your room, unpack a little, put on your bathing suit, grab your sunscreen and it’s off to the pool bar for a rum and coke. With every sip, you can feel the weight of the world coming off your shoulders and you sit there and wonder why you didn’t book this vacation sooner. With the warm air gently breezing by, you drift into a peaceful afternoon nap without a care in the world.

    You wake up and head to a beach side dinner – one of the main reasons you booked this specific resort – and indulge in the freshest surf n’ turf meal which is  accompanied by a few more exotic island drinks. There’s a beach bonfire that night with some local entertainment and you can’t help but got into the vacation vibes and join in the fun. You head back to your room in the early hours of the morning and when your head hits the pillow you have a smile on your face reassured that this trip was the best decision ever.

    The next morning you jolt out of bed by a strange sensation in your body. You aren’t exactly sure what’s going on, but you know one things for sure – you have to make a mad dash to the toilet. You finish your business, still not feeling 100%, but shluff it off as nothing more than a morning bowel movement and get ready for your second day in paradise. But before you can put your two-piece back on, you have to run to the washroom again. And this continues – three more times within the next hour. You start to wonder if it was lobster from the night before – perhaps you have some food poisoning but you are determined to not let this ruin your vacation.

    You gather your things finally and push yourself to the pool only to get there and be hit with another ‘attack’, forcing you to make a b-line to the nearest restroom. Little do you know what you might have is traveller’s diarrhea. After a solid 24 hours of countless trips to the big white throne, you will finally go visit the resort doctor to try to seek treatment. Because here’s the reality – you only have seven days in paradise and now you’ve just wasted three of them inside a bathroom. You wonder how on earth this could have happened – this resort had 4.5 stars on Google reviews – no one ever mentioned traveller’s diarrhea before.

    If you’re one of the ‘lucky’ ones, this episode will be over by day four, but many can take a week or more to resolve. Either way, it’s put a major damper on your dream trip which is made even more frustrating when you realize it might have been preventable.

    Now, maybe that exact situation hasn’t happened to you before, but more likely than not, you have had some experience with traveller’s diarrhea at some point in your life. And here’s the thing – no one talks about it! Maybe it’s because it’s considered a ‘gross’ topic or taboo to talk about your bowel movements, but with up to 50% of travellers from developed countries visiting developing countries that will have traveller’s diarrhea[1],it’s time we start talking about and how we can reduce the risk.

    As you guys know, our family likes to travel a lot. It’s been something we’ve been doing for years and don’t have any plans to stop anytime soon. Chris and I have both had our fair share of travel sickness ruin many trips in the past because we weren’t properly prepared.

    I can remember one solo trip I was on before we were married where I got so sick with traveller’s diarrhea that I can remember praying and asking God to spare my life! I quite literally thought I was going to die…I don’t remember ever feeling THAT sick before.

    Chris had a similar episode on a trip to the Dominican Republic for a missions trip a few years ago where he ate something that caused him to have a bad episode with traveller’s diarrhea on their only day off! “It was the worst! Everyone was having fun swimming, exploring and enjoying the day and all I could do was hangout close to the public washrooms. Not a nice way to spend the day at the beach at all!”

    Here’s the thing – whenever we go on vacation, we plan. We plan where we are going, how long we are staying, and how we are getting there. We will plan out the outfits we will wear, the sunscreen we will bring and we always make sure our travel documents are up to date. We also even plan for sickness too by not only packing some medications just in case, but many times, we will prepare ourselves with having vaccines such as Hepatitis A and B and Typhoid shots. It’s not that we don’t know how to plan, because we do, the problem lies in when we let our guard down once we are in the destination, and are faced with a situation we didn’t plan for. Even at places like resorts, many Canadians think they are safe so they throw caution to the wind and often times sickness will strike when you’re least expecting it. We think we are safe. We often don’t think twice about the Pina Colada with ice nor the water we are drinking, because we just assume that they are fine. But unfortunately, as the stats would indicate, that simply isn’t the case all the time.

    I can remember being in a tropical country once and we had been taking precautions with the tap water. We weren’t allowed to drink it and were cautioned to not even brush our teeth with it. One day, I was in a hurry to leave and brushed my teeth using the tap water, not thinking anything of it. By the evening, I was dealing with full-on traveller’s diarrhea and it was bad. I remember trying to trace where it came from and it took me awhile before I remembered I had brushed my teeth with tap water. Something so routine in our everyday lives that in a hurry, while on vacation, I hadn’t stopped to be cautious and I was now paying the price.

    This isn’t all doom and gloom though. Although 30 – 70% of travellers are likely to have at least one diarrhea episode during their first three days of travel to a tropical destination, there is hope! There is an oral travel vaccine available that can help reduce risks of diarrhea caused by ETEC. Even better, kids can take it too. Though ETEC is the most common in tropical destination, diarrhea during travel can be caused by several pathogens. This is why it’s so important to talk to you doctor four to six weeks prior to your travel. Prevention is not only before you travel, it’s also during! Simple gestures, like washing your hands regularly, eating food that has been boiled or cooked thoroughly, and making sure the water you drink has been purified, can make a big difference! Most of us who vacation, especially as young families, only have a limited amount of days in destination, so it’s critical that we get the most out of those vacations while we are there.

    So when your next vacation opportunity arises, make sure you are prepared. Buy the cute swimsuit, stock up on the sunscreen, plan out your family activities, but also, make sure to be prepared with the proper vaccines and medications so you don’t have to miss out on a single second of your trip!

    Love & Blessings,

    Christine & Chris

    Note: This post was sponsored by Valneva. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

    [1] https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/canadian-immunization-guide-part-4-active-vaccines/page-3-cholera-enterotoxigenic-escherichia-coli-travellers-diarrhea-vaccine.html#a2

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