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Children's Health

Severe vomiting and diarrhea while in India

11/13/2008

Question:

Hi, Last year in January our family went on a trip to India where our parents live. My son was 4 year old at that time and it was his second trip to India. His first trip that occurred when he was around 3 years of age was uneventful health-wise. This time around though, both my children started vomiting around 3 days into the trip. While my daughter was fine after about 2 to 3 days, my son continued to experience severe vomitings as well as diarrhea for the rest of the trip, which was around 4 weeks long. Needless to say, he was miserable, lost a lot of weight, was scared of food and water alike and the rest of us were miserable as well as it was unbearable to watch his plight. We spent most of the trip visiting doctors and at one point just prior to our return to U.S. he had to be hospitalized and was given i.v. fluids as well as antibiotics just in case. He was perfectly fine as soon as we returned home. Now we are terrified to go on our next trip to India scheduled in about 6 months time. I`m still not sure what went wrong. The children always received boiled and cooled water and most of the times we ate home-cooked meals. But there were times when they had foods such as Pizza or drank soda. If it is viral related why didn`t my son overcome this like my daughter and my niece did? Someone suggested that he may be allergic to buffalo milk that is normally used in many households in India. Could this be true? I would appreciate any insight you may have on what could have happened and how we can prevent this in the future. My son, fortunately is young so he may have forgotten most of the trip and his sickness but it is still fresh in my mind and this time I want to be prepared. My husband also thinks that my son probably had terrible home sickness and this may have contributed to his continued illness. I wonder! Thanks so much in anticipation of your kind response.

Answer:

Thank you very much for the question.  I am sure that was scary for you and your husband.  Since I did not have the opportunity to examine your son during his illness, it is difficult for me to determine the cause of his illness.  However, it is likely that he developed some gastrointestinal infection that led to the prolonged vomiting and diarrhea.  For future trips to India, there are some things you can do to prevent illnesses during future trips.  I would visit the CDC travel website (see attached link) to get information on vaccinations, food safety, and overall travel health.  Thank you for the question.

Related Resources:

CDC Travel Website: India

For more information:

Go to the Children's Health health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Stephen E Wilson, MD, MSc Stephen E Wilson, MD, MSc
Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati