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Stomach Problems in the Red Sea - how to avoid!

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba' started by bubbles01, Jan 11, 2011.

  1. bubbles01

    bubbles01 Registered

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Berkshire, England
    Does anyone have any advice about how to avoid being ill in the Red Sea re stomach problems? We went to the Red Sea for the first time 2 years ago and I was very ill for most of the week and yet we have travelled all over the world before and never been ill. If anyone has any advice it would be very gratefully recieved. Thank you.
  2. Mod63

    Mod63 Dive Con

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Home of the largest gathering of drunkards
    Glenfiddich 21yrs. One for breakfeast, one for lunch, one before you go to bed. Has worked in my familiy for the last 40 years traveling the Levant.
  3. RIdiverMike

    RIdiverMike Registered

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Cranston, Rhode Island USA
    Have been to Egypt several times, though not the Red Sea specifically - I wasn't a diver then. I've also travelled to many places where I've had to deal with stomach issues - Mexico, Nepal, India, Morocco, Tunisia, etc.

    Besides the normal precautions you already know (e.g., watch what you eat and who prepares it; use of bottled water, avoid salads/fruits, etc), I'm unaware of any way to prevent stomach issues. Lord knows I never seem to avoid them - I almost always lose 1-2 days on any foreign trip!

    So I just bring the meds to deal with it and minimize the lost time:
    1. One Pepto Bismol tab with every meal - don't wait to get sick.
    2. One alcoholic beverage with lunch, dinner (doctor recommended - no lie!)
    3. One Immodium or similar tab in the morning of any planned dive day where my stomach is gurgling or presents other indications of impending doom.
    4. Doctor prescribed antibiotic to be used when circumstances are dire (e.g., diarrhea with blood) - I used to get Bactrim, now Ciproflaxin seems to be more commonly prescribed.

    Have a great trip!
  4. Crowley

    Crowley Master Instructor

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Planet Crowley
    I work here so see it all the time...

    First thing to avoid when you arrive is a big meal and lots of alcohol. Eat a light meal, a couple of beers if you must, and drink plenty of water upon arrival and during your stay. Taking a sachet of rehydration salts before bedtime will help.

    The absolute worst thing you can do if you get a case of the Pharaoh's Revenge is plug it up with Imodium. This just bottles it up and lets the bacteria fester inside you. Antinal - an antibacterial is preferred, coupled with a lot of fluids and - sorry to say - let it all hang out.

    Hope that helps - be strong!

  5. TSandM

    TSandM Missed and loved by many. Rest in Peace ScubaBoard Supporter

    I'm sorry, Crowley, but I am going to take issue with your statement about imodium. It was once, indeed, medical doctrine to avoid the use of antidiarrheals, on the theory that it just kept toxins in the gut. That view has changed. Antidiarrheals can help prevent dehydration, by making it a little easier for patients to keep up with their fluid requirements orally. They are now routinely used in everything except autoimmune colitis.

    As far as prevention goes, I don't have anything to add. Avoiding anything that hasn't been peeled or boiled, and anything that has been washed in tap water, might help. But I was more careful on our Egypt trip than I have ever been anywhere, and I got sick anyway (as did almost everyone on our trip). Pepto Bismol did not seem to work very well (which suggests it is not toxigenic E. coli, as the bismuth binds and inactivates the toxin from that bug) nor did Antinal help anyone. Cipro, however, did.

    I would go to your family physician and get the following prescriptions: 5 days of Cipro and 2 days of Phenergan pills (or suppositories, but most people seemed to have more trouble with diarrhea than with vomiting). I would pick up a couple of packages of Imodium (which is OTC) and Pepto Bismol tablets (which won't hurt anything, and might help). The Pepto should be used as a prophylaxis, and requires at least two tablets four times a day to be effective.

    Good luck with this. I have wonderful memories of our boat time, but the rest of the trip is seen through rather jaundiced eyes. It is NOT fun to be a tourist with turista in a country with no public restrooms . . .
  6. flw

    flw Solo Diver

    # of Dives:
    Location: N Coast Scotland
    we usually use one of the liveaboards and none of us have ever had any stomach problems - the water's mostly from the desalination plant anyway and I tend to eat the salads and stuff in the same way as I would at home
  7. mania

    mania Cousin Itt ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Warsaw, Poland
    there are some basic things.
    1. Don't drink anything with ice
    2. drink only bottled water - use it also for washing your teeth
    3. don't eat fresh vegies
    4. don't eat fresh friuts unpealed
    5. wash your hands regularly
    6. a shot of vodka with pepper is way better than whisky. One. In the evening - if you are planning to dive.

    And buy Antinal in the local pharmacy (costs peanuts) and have it. Just in case.
  8. mania

    mania Cousin Itt ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Warsaw, Poland
  9. cruisensnooze

    cruisensnooze Contributor

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: BOURNEMOUTH, UK
    Hi Bubbles
    I must be the worst traveller when it comes to stomachs!! - I know where every toilet is when on holiday.......... We go to Red Sea every year and every year I am plagued. Imodium only works if enough taken. Then a couple of years ago was diving in Sharm and one of the local dive clubs told me about 'Epinor' and life became worth living. Contains 400mg Norfloxacin. Go to local chemist, you get 14 tablets for 18 egyptian pounds / about £2 UK. Took as soon as problem and rest of holiday was great.
    Regards Chris
  10. LouieLouie

    LouieLouie Contributor

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Bergen, Norway
    I avoid tap water, drink a lot of beer, live at cheapo hostels and pretty much eat anything I come across. Never any problems. Has worked out fine backpacking in Egypt, Thailand, India, China, Mexico.

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