What is Montezuma’s Revenge?

Montezuma’s Revenge is one of the most common travel sicknesses that can cause digestion to go haywire. The  diarrhea that catches every third person on long-distance travel is mostly caused by the pathogens Escherichia coli or Campylobacter. The rule: “Cook it, boil it, peel it or forget it” (cook it, peel it or forget it) helps to protect yourself from the unwelcome traveler’s diarrhea. If you get caught anyway, you should go back to your first-aid kit and drink plenty of fluids to counteract the loss of fluids. In the case of prolonged diarrhea, a bacterial or viral infection should be considered and medical advice sought.

Causes of Traveler’s Diarrhea

Unusually spicy or greasy food is often enough to trigger traveler’s diarrhea. The stress of travel or the change in climate in the destination country can also upset your stomach. In addition, traveler’s diarrhea can be triggered by pathogens such as the intestinal bacterium Escherichia coli,  salmonella , shigella or campylobacter germs. Such an intestinal infection while traveling is also known as Montezuma’s revenge.

If the hygiene conditions are poor, the bacteria can be transmitted via water, food or even animals. Other causes of diarrhea are viruses (e.g. the  norovirus  or rotaviruses). The viruses are excreted in the stool or vomit and are transmitted fecal-orally directly from person to person, via objects or also via contaminated food and contaminated water.

In rare cases, parasites such as worms or amoebas (Entamoeba histolytica) cause travelers’ diarrhea.

Montezuma’s Revenge: Typical Symptoms

In traveler’s diarrhea, the first symptoms appear after an incubation period of a few hours to several days after the first contact with the pathogens. Typically, sufferers have watery, loose stools three times a day or more. Other symptoms such as loss of appetite,  nausea  and  flatulence can also  occur.

The symptoms caused by travel stress or unfamiliar food are usually milder than those caused by infectious traveler’s diarrhea caused by illness.

How can travelers’ diarrhea be treated?

When you have diarrhea, your body loses a lot of fluid. In order to bring the water balance and the electrolyte balance back into balance, the body should be given a lot of  tea , diluted  juices , vegetable broth or soups. Light fare such as  rusksbananas , savory snacks or grated apples can also be used to treat Montezuma’s revenge. In addition, taking  healing earth also calms  the intestines, since harmful bacteria are bound and excreted.

On the other hand, fatty foods should be avoided during the illness. Even the home remedy cola with pretzel sticks is not suitable as a remedy for traveler’s diarrhea. The caffeine in the cola stimulates the intestinal activity further and can thus lead to a worsening of the symptoms. In addition, the sugar it contains causes further fluid loss in the intestine.

Medicines for the first-aid kit

What should not be missing in any first-aid kit against traveler’s diarrhea are medicines with the active ingredient  loperamide . As an opium derivative, the active ingredient acts specifically on intestinal activity and reduces it, so that the intestine is calmed for some time. However, this allows the pathogens to multiply better in the intestine. It is therefore absolutely not advisable to take this active ingredient for a longer period of time. But if you don’t have the opportunity to go to the toilet on a long bus ride, for example, you can stop your diarrhea for a short time.

Important  minerals  and salts that are lost due to fluid loss in traveler’s diarrhea can be replaced with the help of electrolyte preparations. The electrolyte preparations are available in pharmacies either in the form of powder, tablets or as a rehydration solution. The powder preparation is dissolved in water or tea and taken in liquid form. Be sure to use only boiled tap water or bottled mineral water, as tap water can be a common trigger of travelers’ diarrhea in many countries.

Yeast tablets can also be helpful for travelers’ diarrhea. They contain fungi (saccharomycetes), which prevent the spread of bacteria in the intestine and restore the natural intestinal flora. Charcoal tablets are also popular remedies for diarrhea because they can bind toxins. However, both home remedies should not be used for diarrhea with  fever  or bloody diarrhea.

Traveler’s diarrhea: when to see a doctor?

Most forms of travelers’ diarrhea are harmless and last only a few days. If it lasts longer and there are additional symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, fever or blood in the stool, there may be a serious infection or even food poisoning behind the symptoms. In such cases, urgent medical attention should be sought for treatment.

Severe forms of intestinal infections are caused by toxins attacking the intestinal wall. Bacteria are often the trigger and treatment with  antibiotics is  necessary. In general, medical advice should always be sought for the right treatment in severe cases.

You should also seek medical help if you have dry mucous membranes, dizziness and great exhaustion. These symptoms can be a sign of dehydration. If necessary, this can be treated with an infusion.

Traveler’s diarrhea should always be checked out by a doctor, even in children, pregnant women, the elderly or people with a weakened immune system.

Prevent Montezuma’s revenge: 7 tips!

Since the most common cause of travelers’ diarrhea is bacteria, when traveling to exotic countries, the motto “Cook it, boil it, peel it or forget it” should be considered as a preventive measure against Montezuma’s revenge:

  1. Tap water, ice cubes, open drinks and ready-made salads should be avoided during the travel period.
  2. Eggs and chicken should also be eaten with great caution, as they could sometimes be contaminated with salmonella.
  3. Especially when traveling to warm regions such as some areas of Africa, Southeast Asia and Central and South America, boiling water before taking it is just as advisable as using bottled water for oral hygiene.
  4. The food should always be hot and cooked, because lukewarm food is a suitable environment for bacteria.
  5. You should also make sure to peel fruit and vegetables before eating.
  6. Avoid food sold at street stalls.
  7.  Caution should also be exercised with  frozen foods and dairy products.

Where does the term Montezuma’s revenge come from?

The term goes back to the history of the Aztec king Montezuma, who ruled in Tenochtitlán (in modern-day Mexico) in the early 16th century. When he was captured and killed by Spanish conquistadors during the conquest of Tenochtitlán, he is said to have uttered a curse shortly before his death, threatening revenge on invaders in his land.

At first the term Montezuma’s Revenge was jokingly used for traveler’s diarrhea among tourists in Central America, but it is now also used for traveler’s diarrhea in other countries.


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