tourista/diarrhea, etc. in Costa Rica

Old Jun 25th, 2004, 10:14 AM
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tourista/diarrhea, etc. in Costa Rica

Each of the times we've been to Mexico, one or both of us got diarrhea for a few days. In fact, at our resorts, about one-quarter of the guests were "down" on any given day. Will Costa Rica be like that? No one speaks to that problem on these postings, so I'm thinking there's no similar problem-- but somehow that's too good to be true. Thank you for responding. (On a totaly different subject, I wish I knew more about the Arenal Observatory Lodge. I know that it doesn't face the active side of the volcano, but it sounds very pleasant in every other sense. Very few postings on the place, however.)
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Old Jun 25th, 2004, 10:51 AM
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I've had similar issues in Mexico and I'm hoping Costa Rica will be much better. Everyone says their water supply is cleaner than Mexico and I haven't heard much about people having any troubles. I'd still take basic precautions though.
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Old Jun 25th, 2004, 10:57 AM
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Even though it sounds too good to be true, it is true -- you can safely drink the water in Costa Rica. That is, if you're not visiting some remote areas (perhaps others could fill you in on these). But if you're going places such as Manuel Antonio, San Jose, Arenal, Monteverde, etc. you'll be fine.

I got "turista" on both of my trips to Mexico, and always worry about it. In Costa Rica, I filled my water bottle straight out of the hotel tap, and never once had a problem!
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Old Jun 25th, 2004, 11:41 AM
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Whether the water is clean or not has little to do with whether you get diarrhoea when visiting foreign countries. Residents of those countries have the same thing happen to them when they visit OUR country and drink OUR water and eat OUR fruits and vegetables. Why? Because it is not cleanliness that is the issue; it is the fact that different regions have different microbes in the water and on fruits and vegetables, and our bodies are not used to those strange little invisible buggies. You develop the diarrhoea problem within a few days, and you finally get over it once your body gets used to the new microbes.

So what to do to avoid it happening entirely? Here's the best plan of action I've discovered. It works, I'd estimate, 90% of the time. About a week or so before you leave, begin to take a cap full of Pepto Bismol when you brush your teeth each morning. Continue to do this each morning throughout your trip. This little bit of bismuth will provide enough coating for your stomach and intestines to keep the little microbes from sticking around.

A side effect which you should be aware of, but really matters not one whit, is that the Pepto Bismol in your system will turn your feces black during the time you are taking it regularly. When you stop, the black feces will also stop. No big deal, but when you notice it, do not become alarmed and think something terrible is happening.

This works, folks! So go buy the Pepto Bismol today, and don't worry about getting a big enough bottle for your entire trip. It is readily available at farmacias all over Latin America.
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Old Jun 25th, 2004, 11:49 AM
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I've been to Mexico several times, as well as two trips to Costa Rica and Belize. Never had any diarrhea issues on any trip. I didn't drink tap water in Mexico, but did in Belize and CR.

The CDC website actually recommends taking Pepto Bismol while in Mexico. Says it will prevent 60% of traveler's diarrhea. But, it says to take it four times a day. I tried that for a couple of days, but between the black stools and the black tongue, it just wasn't worth it.

Jean
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Old Jun 25th, 2004, 11:51 AM
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re Arenal Observatory Lodge - have you viewed their website with lots of info? I was sure I was going to stay there regardless of the postings about the recommended hotels (Paraiso, etc.) & actually made a reservation - they are quick. But, after much thought about the extra time & costs involved from it being so much further away (down a 6 mile dirt road) I cancelled & booked at the Paraiso. I have read positive reviews - but for me, I know when we get to the hotel, we don't want to worry about another lengthy trip down the bumpy, dark, dirt road at night - and we didn't want to pay extra $ for a taxi to come out that way!
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Old Jun 25th, 2004, 02:40 PM
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While in CR I'd planned on bottled water for everything, no fruit, no salads. That plan lasted about 2 hours. I drank from the tap, had plenty of salads & fruit, never had any problems. When I'm on vaca the last thing I want to be worried about is watching what I eat & drink!
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Old Jun 25th, 2004, 03:34 PM
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I just got back from the travel clinic. The woman went down this whole insane list of precautions: No water or ice, no dairy, no seafood, no fruit, no salads, use deet on your whole body including hair and face, etc. etc. It was the most insane thing I've ever heard. Basically she should have said consume nothing and stay in a bubble while you're there. I've been deathly ill in Mexico before, but that's not going to prevent me from having a good time in Costa Rica and enjoying the local food and culture. Just use common sense!
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Old Jun 25th, 2004, 04:16 PM
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Have to diagree with barbarian. The water has lots to do with it. In Mexico, if people can afford it, they do not drink the tap water for a whole bunch of microbe filled reasons. Both Mexican friends and American friends living in Mexico tell me the same- don't drink the water. I can also attest this from personal experience. I have never stayed in a Mexican home where folks drank the tap water and I have persoannly paid the consequences of ingestion of tap water by using dishes still wet from washing. In addition to microbes water related parasitic infections can and do occur. Again I can attest to this from experience working in clinics in Mexico and Honduras. I realize this is about CR but I don't want people thinking they can safely drink the water in Mexico- you can't.
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Old Jun 25th, 2004, 05:05 PM
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At no point did I say you could safely drink the water in Mexico. Of course you cannot - for more reasons than just because it contains foreign microbes.

You do not need to take more than one cap full of Pepto Bismol per day - certainly not four times a day. I've never experienced "black tongue" from doing this, but certainly stools turn black.
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Old Jun 25th, 2004, 06:02 PM
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I just wanted to throw my 2 cents worth in here. My husband and I went to CR last spring and I ate everything that didn't eat me first that includes drinking the water and for that matter all beverages as well. I have an extremely sensitive GI and will get sick at the drop of a hat in foreign countries. (I was so sick one time that I had to go to the hospital at Kennedy airport via a wheelchair from the plane.) But I was absolutely fine in CR as a matter of fact I was better than fine as I probably gained a pound or two there.
When in Mexico I absolutely do not drink the water, use ice, eat fruit that does not have to be peeled or uncooked vegetables. (Cancun is the exception as they have their own water treatment plant where the hotels are on the beach and I have never had a problem there either.)
So a bit of caution is always prudent, ie: don't drink water from the rivers, streams, etc. but in general I don't think you will have a problem in CR. Go, eat, drink and be merry.
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Old Jun 25th, 2004, 08:26 PM
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I have been to Costa Rica several times for about a total of 3 months and have only had diarrhea one time--probably from a blender drink in a market in Heredia. Just got back from 2 weeks with our 4 and 6 year old and we were all fine. We drank the water in Liberia, Hermosa, Ocotal, Canas, Palo Verde, Santa Cruz, Tamarindo, Nosara and Samara.

As for mosquitos, several Ticos warned us about Dengue. I guess it was really bad last year and it is bad again this year on the Caribean side. Some of the restaurants in Hermosa had bug spray on the tables. We only got about 8 bites for the 4 of us combined and luckily, no Dengue yet! We did wear Deet most of the time. I would shower every night and I wound up with my bites while I was sleeping. Fortunately, the mosquitos that cause dengue usually bite during the day.

Hope this helps. Have a great trip!
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Old Jun 25th, 2004, 11:54 PM
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I had been visting Costa Rica for 3 years and now living here for 6 years and have never had a problem with the water. having guided during this time also, again have only heard a couple complaints and I think they were related to the quantity of drinks the ice was in. The only time there may be a concern is when we have prolonged heavy rains and the water table rises to the max. Otherwise it is just the excess of rum that will cause the "runs"
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Old Jun 26th, 2004, 09:47 AM
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Only the ship's captain and a particularly good looking lady passenger had problems in CR after a late night in MA in March '03.
I drink only bottled water in my house in San Miguel de Allende, 'tho I have a new water filtration system and I'm Hep A and B immunized.
Although all the SMdA restaurants are "safe", I think the great fresh salsas may be a source of many problems for gringos.
M
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Old Jun 28th, 2004, 04:19 PM
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I have stayed in Costa Rica and did not have any problems with diarrhea. I stayed at the house of family of Ticos and ate their food and drank their water. No problem whatsoever. I would do like one post said, use common sense. i.e. If it looks dirty don't drink it, if it tastes bad don't swallow it.
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Old Jun 29th, 2004, 04:35 PM
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Mylissa said "Cancun is the exception as they have their own water treatment plant where the hotels are on the beach" Is this true? What is the water status there?
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Old Jun 30th, 2004, 11:23 AM
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On one side of the hotel strip in Cancun are the big beautiful hotels and on the other side is a huge water treatment plant.
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Old Jul 1st, 2004, 07:58 AM
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When we went to Mexico a guide book gave the suggestion to take two capsules of Amonion(?)AD or other similiar type of anti diarrhea every morning prior to eating. We did this and ate without problems. We drank or used the water to rinse while brushing our teeth, but other than that we just drank bottled water. I think taking those two capsules every morning really helped. Another couple with us didn't believe it would work, and were sick a lot. We just returned from St John and the guide book for there said you could drink the water. I did and was sick, sick, sick two days in a row, until I finally realized that the water was making me sick! I like one of the others posts explanation for the illness, micronisms. Interesting, and good to know. Next time I travel out of country, no matter where, I will take my two anti-diarrhea pills, every morning!
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Old Jul 6th, 2004, 12:09 AM
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In response to other posts about Cancun, the water is still horrible there due to the low elevation. They do the best they can to keep it clean, but the whole Yucutan penninsula has the worst water in Mexico. Be very careful there!! I picked up some sort of intestinal bug in Cancun that took two weeks of strong Cipro to kill. Yikes!
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Old Jul 6th, 2004, 04:40 AM
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You can get yourself in trouble taking anti-diarrheals, such as Immodium, when they aren't necessary. For one thing, if you do ingest some bad 'bugs', you need to be able to get rid of them. Preventing their passage through your gi tract can cause more systemic illness. Besides you can end up terribly constipated, which isn't any fun either. By all means, bring some Immodium along, and if you get diarrhea before a flight or some such thing, take it. If you want to take something as a preventative, I'd stick to Pepto Bismol. Be aware though that it contains Aspirin and shouldn't be given to children. Jean
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