One of my biggest worries about traveling to India was “Delhi belly” (the traveler’s diarrhea, not the Bollywood movie!). I didn’t want to exacerbate my ulcerative colitis. When my dietician friend told me to take the Dukoral vaccine to prevent travel-related tummy troubles, I hesitated. I didn’t know what Dukoral was, how it affects travelers with gastrointestinal illnesses, or if I should talk to my doctor or gastroenterologist first.
After researching what the Dukoral vaccine is, how it helps prevent traveler’s diarrhea and cholera, when to take it and where to get it, I decided it was worth the risk. My ulcerative colitis might flare up after taking two doses of the Dukoral vaccine, but it would definitely flare if I got traveler’s diarrhea in India. And that would be worse.
If you’re planning a trip and you have gastrointestinal issues, you might have these questions:
- What does the Dukoral vaccine protect against?
- How does Dukoral prevent traveler’s diarrhea and cholera?
- What effect does Dukoral have on travelers who already have intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s, colitis, or IBD (inflammatory bowel disease)?
- Should travelers with any type of gastrointestinal illness take Dukoral?
- What about tourists who are lactose-intolerant, gluten-free food, or even allergic to certain foods? Does Dukoral affect travelers who have food sensitivities?
- Should travelers with any type of gastrointestinal illness take Dukoral?
Fellow traveler, I have good news and I have other news. The good news is that I traveled for a month through Nepal, Dubai and Hong Kong without getting sick at all. I don’t know if the Dukoral vaccine prevented me from getting traveler’s diarrhea or cholera, but it didn’t cause my ulcerative colitis to flare up. The other news is that I didn’t end up going to India because the Buddha Air staff at the Kathmandu airport in Nepal refused to let me board the flight to Varansi.
The only way to find out if Dukoral will help prevent you from getting Delhi belly in India or any type of traveler’s diarrhea is if you take the vaccine. But, taking the Dukoral vaccine is riskier if you have Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or any type of inflammatory bowel disease. In fact, Dukoral’s official page recommends travelers with intestinal illnesses not to take the Dukoral vaccine.
How to Decide If You Should Take the Dukoral Vaccine
Are you going to India? Some travelers say “Delhi belly” isn’t as bad or widespread as it once was. I did a lot of research before my trip because the last thing I wanted (well, one of the last) was my ulcerative colitis to flare up if I got traveler’s diarrhea. Delhi belly is a popular discussion on most India travel forums. One or two travelers said Delhi belly isn’t as bad as it was a few years ago and occurs less often.
However, the Indian guy (Rakesh) who works at my local fruit-and-veggies store recently returned from three months in his home state (the Jammu and Kashmir area of north India). Rakesh suffered from a bad bout of traveler’s diarrhea for the first month he was there — and he was born and raised in India! He lives in Vancouver, now. His body isn’t used to the bacteria and parasites in the food and water.
Maybe if Rakesh had taken the Dukoral vaccine, he would have been protected against traveler’s diarrhea. Dukoral can’t guarantee good health for your guts, of course…but it can strengthen your immunity and help protect your intestines from unwelcome intruders.
What is the Dukoral vaccine?
According to the official DUKORAL® Oral Vaccine – Prevent ETEC Diarrhea website, Dukural offers protection against diarrhea caused by heat-labile toxin-producing enterotoxigenic E. coli (LT-producing ETEC). That’s the formal definition. Dukoral also helps prevent cholera, an infectious disease that can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration.
Dukoral isn’t just a good health tip for a short-term travel tip to India. If you’re thinking about relocating to a country foreign to you and you have health issues, read 10 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to Africa.
Do you need a doctor’s prescription?
Different countries, states, provinces and regions have different health laws and regulations about prescriptions for vaccines. Where in the world are you? Do a search for Dukoral vaccine in your area. You might also search for tips on how to prevent traveler’s diarrhea in your local health centers and clinics. Dukoral probably isn’t the only vaccine that helps prevent traveler’s diarrhea and other types of diseases.
In Canada, travelers do not need a doctor’s prescription for Dukoral if they’re getting it to protect them from traveler’s diarrhea (unless they live in Québec). Currently, all Canadians need a doctor’s prescription if they’re taking Dukoral to protect against cholera.
Where do you get the Dukoral vaccine?
The pharmacy. I bought my dual-dose Dukoral vaccine at the Superstore pharmacy. It was about $120, including the dispensing fee. Note that different pharmacies charge different amounts of money to dispense drugs.
Travel clinics also carry the Dukoral vaccine; I try to avoid getting vaccinations at travel clinics because they’re so expensive! I don’t usually find it helpful to talk to a travel nurse before going on a trip or getting a vaccine. Generally speaking, I think they over-prescribe vaccinations, medications and other preventative drugs because they want travelers to be healthy.
Should travelers with gastrointestinal illnesses (ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, IBD) take Dukoral?
The official Dukoral website says: “The Dukoral vaccine is also not recommended for travellers who have a fever or an acute gastrointestinal illness. If you have diarrhea or a fever, you should postpone taking DUKORAL® until the illness has passed. However, you may take the vaccine if you have a mild illness, such as a cold.”
It’s a dilemma, isn’t it? If you don’t take the Dukoral vaccine, you’re less protected against food and water-borne parasites and problems. You risk getting a bad bout of traveler’s diarrhea — which is highly contagious! If you do take the vaccine, you may be be protecting yourself against traveler’s diarrhea but you could flare up your intestinal illness or make your gastrointestinal disease worse. Not an easy decision.
Talk to your doctor or gastroenterologist if you have a gastrointestinal illness such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or inflammatory bowel disease. Just as importantly, know your own body. How have your guts responded to vaccinations, drugs and medications in the past? Is your gastrointestinal medicine effective and fast-acting?
Why I decided to take Dukoral even though I have ulcerative colitis
I wasn’t overly worried about the Dukoral vaccine affecting my colitis for two reasons. One I’ve had ulcerative colitis for 23 years; anything has the potential to flare my guts. Food doesn’t usually cause problems for me — not even popcorn, nuts or high-fiber veggies. My ulcerative colitis is triggered by lack of sleep, which means crossing time zones and jet lag is horrible. Since nothing else really seems to flare my guts, I figured the Dukoral vaccine would be a good way to help prevent traveler’s diarrhea.
Remission is the other reason I wasn’t overly concerned that Dukoral would flare my colitis. My guts have been stable and healthy for over five years because of menopause. The constant fluctuation of my monthly hormones and cycle was a major trigger for my ulcerative colitis. When I went into perimenopause in my early 40s I noticed the colitis was quieter. Then, after I stopped getting my period, my intestines settled into a happy state.
Dukoral sounded like an easy way to prevent Delhi belly — and the cost of two doses of Dukoral is much cheaper than getting traveler’s diarrhea in India. I took the oral Dukoral vaccine two weeks before my planned trip to India, and had no gut problems at all. Interestingly, I have a colonoscopy scheduled next week! My gastroenterologist will inspect my guts and tell me how the ulcerative colitis is doing. It’s possible that the Dukoral vaccine affected my intestines without my knowing. I doubt it, though. I would’ve had symptoms of a flare-up.
By the way, I didn’t actually go to India because I messed up my visa. Would I have gotten Delhi belly or traveler’s diarrhea if I’d actually made it to India? Instead I got stuck at the Kathmandu Airport in Nepal. To learn how I ended up in Dubai, read What to Do When They Refuse to Let You Board the Flight).
What do you think — should you take the Dukoral vaccine to help prevent you from getting traveler’s diarrhea? Your thoughts, big and little, are welcome below! And if you have any health-related tips or tools, please share. We love tips and tools :-)
Travel in faith, and be transformed.