Tropical Trip OK for Most With Crohn's, Colitis

Symptom-free patients have no greater risk for gastro infections than general public, study finds

FRIDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Among people with inflammatory bowel disease -- a chronic intestinal disorder that commonly takes the form of Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis -- those who travel to developing nations or tropical locales do not have a greater risk of intestinal infections than other travelers, according to a new study.

Researchers in Israel concluded that patients with inflammatory bowel disease who have not had symptoms for at least three months actually should be encouraged to travel. They noted, however, that compared with people who don't have the condition, inflammatory bowel disease patients have a greater risk for illness when visiting industrialized countries.

"Inflammatory bowel disease patients are often advised to avoid travel, especially to the developing world. However, we found that the absolute risk of illness is small and most episodes were mild," the study's lead author, Dr. Shomron Ben-Horin, of the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, said in a news release from the American Gastroenterological Association.

"If an inflammatory bowel disease patient has been in remission for at least three months, I recommend they take their dream vacation," Ben-Horin added.

The study, published in the February issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, compiled information on 222 people with inflammatory bowel disease and compared them to 224 people who did not have the condition. Overall, the study participants took nearly 1,100 trips.

Among those with the chronic condition, illnesses occurred in almost 14 percent of the trips to industrialized countries, compared to a little over 3 percent among those without the disease.

During trips to developing or tropical locations, however, the rate of infection was similar in both groups. Illnesses occurred in 17 percent of the trips among the people with inflammatory bowel disease, compared with 21 percent among those who didn't have the condition. The researchers said people with the condition are at no higher risk for intestinal infections, such as traveler's diarrhea, when visiting developing nations than the general population.

Those with inflammatory bowel disease who have not had any symptoms of the condition for more than three months have the same risk of infection as those who are healthy no matter where they go, the study authors pointed out in the news release.

However, those who travel to developing countries are still at risk for certain infections that can be prevented with vaccines. The researchers cautioned that travelers should consult their doctor before taking any trips to these regions.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about inflammatory bowel disease.

Mary Elizabeth Dallas SOURCE: American Gastroenterological Association, news release, Jan. 25, 2012

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