While this isn’t one of the more popular subjects when visiting a vacation based travel website (at least not a subject many people want to read about, unfortunately it is a necessary topic at times. I’ve included many posts on this site about food and water precautions (You can scan through my health section for those tips) but at times no matter how careful you are, you get a parasite or cyst.

Symptoms of Parasites

Symptoms of parasites, amoebas (amebas) and cysts are all pretty similar. Usually diarrhea is the main symptom. This can also include stomach cramps especially right after eating. Heavier parasite problems can also include nausea and vomiting although that seems to more often mean you have amoebas (amebas) which can be pretty serious. If you are throwing up with diarrhea don’t wait, collect samples and go see a Doctor right away, you don’t want to add dehydration and other more serious problems to your discomfort.

If you start to get some of these symptoms (single case of Diarrhea or some nausea) don’t panic. First remember it is likely you’re eating food that is not your normal diet, quite often that means more alcohol, deserts, strange foods and quite often just more food. Any of these can cause temporary stomach problems. However, if they persist it’s (usually more than 1-2 loose bowel movements), it is probably time to go get checked out.

Getting diagnosed really isn’t that bad (well a little gross). First you need a small sample of the offending body excretion be it the diarrhea or vomit (or both). While there are many methods to do this, it is probably easiest to get a few plastic bags from the local colmado (neighborhood store). Open one up and spread it below you as you sit down on the toilet and …. Well, collect your sample. Being that there is usually no was to shut down diarrhea and you only need a small sample, that is what the other bags are for. Turn one inside out, cover your hand and reach in and collect a few table spoons worth of your sample and pull the bag back over your hand trapping the sample inside. Tie a couple knots and stick that into a second bag to ensure there are no leaks.

Good point to remember is that you don’t need the entire job, just a small sample will due. That is a lot easier to carry around, hide, hand to the lab assistant (man what a job that must be) etc.

Finding a Clinic

This part is a lot different than the States. You might have had the travel company try to sell you expensive travel insurance to cover all the possible hospital bills that your normal health insurance doesn’t cover. It is very unlikely you’re really going to ever use it unless there is something really major.

For this, ask the hotel where to find a private clinic. Really, you want to go private for this. You can have the whole doctor visit, and lab work done at the local hospital, usually for free, but do you really want to spend the whole day when you are on vacation? Likely at a private clinic (they often look just like a hospital but you will have to pay instead of it being free) you will walk in, tell them you need a parasite test. “Analisys de caca para parásito” will get your point across in Spanish. Pay about 150 pesos (about $4.00 USD), talk your slip that says you paid down the hall to the lab and drop it off. Usually it takes 1 to a few hours for the analysis. Take off and come back a few hours later.

Our local clinic has an emergency room that always has a doctor. I just walk in and ask them to explain the result form to me. They look at it, fill out a prescription and you are on your way. If they do charge you and they decide to boost up the price it might reach another 500 pesos or less than $15.00, my local clinic usually doesn’t change for these few minute conversations.

Next ask for a pharmacy, there is going to be one in the clinic and usually 1 or 2 right across the street. If not, one or more will be nearby.

Parasite Medication

In most cases if you already know you have a parasite you can go straight to the pharmacy and ask for general wide spectrum parasite medication (parásito medicina) . They usually have both pills and a liquid suspension for less than 50 pesos. This is a little weaker than the prescription stuff the doctor will prescribe but it works fine for light cases. Likely the stuff that the doctor will prescribe will be stronger and you will be surer that you are taking the right stuff.

The prescribed medication will cost more and usually be stronger. A common medicine for Cists (Quistes), Giardia lamblia (same in Spanish), and Ascaris lumbricoides (same in Spanish), isNeoparax (also called Nitazoxanida) in 500mg. It comes in a small box of 6 tablets and you take 1 tablet twice a day for three days, you then repeat this a week or so later. This will cost you about 470 pesos (about $12.00), this is considered a pretty expensive prescription here. Depending on your bug they also have another medication that comes as one large tablet that you only take once, that is about 400 pesos.

In short, the two trips you take in the taxi are likely to cost you more than the Doctor Visit, Lab test and prescription. It is actually a better idea to get it taken care of here than it is to wait and have your Doctor treat it back home. This kind of problem is extremely common here and the labs and Doctors are likely going to be able to figure out exactly what you have much easier because they see it all the time. If you are really worried, have your Doctor check you out again when you get home but why put up with the problem when you are on vacation? Take a little time and do a little sightseeing when you are out (just don’t eat until you get back near a toilet!!)