What is Montezuma's Revenge?

Montezuma's revenge is a name given to diarrhea contracted in Latin America or Mexico by non-locals.
Tap water is a chief culprit in causing Montezuma's revenge.
Drinking bottled water can help prevent Montezuma's revenge.
A popular drink in Mexico, the margarita can contain ice, so it should be avoided.
Seek medical attention if you develop a high fever or if the diarrhea persists after you return home.
Intravenous fluids and medications may be given to treat or prevent severe dehydration.
Montezuma's revenge refers to diarrhea contracted in Mexico by tourists.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2015
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Montezuma's revenge is a colloquialism for the diarrhea contracted in Mexico and other Latin American countries by non-locals. The term dates from the conquering of local people by European countries. The diarrhea and discomfort is thought to be the revenge of the local gods that were worshiped prior to Latin American countries becoming Christianized.

Diarrhea is not an infliction by an angry god, however. but the body’s response to bacterial or parasitic agents encountered in water sources and in produce. Gastrointestinal illness can occur not only in Latin American countries, but also in other parts of the developing world where water may not be treated to eliminate amoebas or bacteria that can make people sick. Improper washing of vegetables and fruit can also result in digestive problems.

In many cases, Montezuma's revenge is a transient illness, and the best treatment tends to be taking bismuth sulfate. Children experiencing diarrhea and fever should not be given this medicine as it contains salicylic acids, which could cause the child to develop Reye’s syndrome, a serious condition. If bismuth sulfate does not resolve the condition, and if a fever develops, this may be indication of parasitic or bacterial infection that is not easily destroyed by the body’s natural immunities. In these cases, sufferers may also require antibiotics or anti-parasitic medications to cure the condition.


Diarrhea can frequently be avoided by not consuming untreated water or produce in a region where it occurs. Drinking bottled water, even when brushing the teeth, is recommended to reduce exposure. Mexico, in particular, is known for attractive blended drinks like the margarita, but since the ice may also be made from tap water, such drinks should be avoided.

Since Mexico and parts of Latin America can be extremely warm, it is important for visitors to keep their fluid intake high, especially if they have a case of Montezuma's revenge. Medical experts recommend avoiding beverages containing either alcohol or caffeine. Bottled local sodas that do not contain caffeine are considered safe for consumption, and can make consuming at least six to eight 8-ounce (236.5 ml) glasses of fluids a day a little less of a chore. Drinking a lot of beverages that are high sugar products may fuel diarrhea, however, so if the condition gets worse, switching to bottled water is recommended.

Diarrhea that continues when a traveler has returned home is almost always due to bacterial or parasitic infection. If the illness continues in this manner, or is accompanied by high fever, and/or vomiting, hospitalization, intravenous antibiotics, and intravenous fluids my be needed to prevent severe dehydration.


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Post 15

I've had this and the only way I can describe it is that my stomach had the most horrible cramps that I've ever experienced in my life. The diarrhea was terrible and definitely uncontrollable. I didn't travel out of the country but my family had and somehow I managed to get it from something they brought back. Or so I was told by the doctor who finally figured out what was wrong with me. It was two or three weeks of pure torture.

Post 13

This sounds a lot like what I had when I went to India. It was non-stop diarrhea for a week! I had to go to the emergency room there and get an IV serum with antibiotics in it! I was at risk for dehydration.

I think every foreigner in India experiences this sooner or later.

Post 12

@anon262860-- I believe in the Divine so what you say may be true. But I also think that God wouldn't punish people for others' mistakes. The tourists that visit Latin America today have nothing to do with the conquerors of the past. So why would God punish them for it?

At the same time, I respect everyone's beliefs and opinions. And if people feel that they are being given justice with this health condition, then I respect that.

Post 11

It's not necessary to travel to developing countries to develop gastrointestinal infections like this. I've experienced the same traveling to Europe. I think it just has to do with the fact that our body adjusts to the bacteria and viruses found in our environment. When we go to a very different place, we encounter bacteria that our body has never encountered before. So that's why we get sick.

This is highly probable when going to any new place. Of course, it could be that the foods are not cleaned or prepared properly. But why do the natives not get sick? Because they're used to the bacteria.

I don't think anyone should shy away from visiting Latin American because of this, or any place for that matter. Just take your precautions, and get treatment when symptoms start.

Post 9

I was in Mexico for a week. I was fine the whole time, but two or three days after being in Canada, I got horrible diarrhea and I cannot eat anything.

I've been living off of water for three days. I have not vomited yet but if I eat anything, I feel like I will and that makes the diarrhea worse. Could this be the problem? Can it hit you two or three days after returning? Or is it something else?

Post 8

Who says it isn't revenge from a deity?

If people say it's their god's work when miracles (that can be rationally explained away with science/logic) occur. Who's to say it isn't the deities of other people when things like these occur? Be consistent and respectful.

Also, the people of Mexico tend not to get sick because they've developed the antibodies for the water. But they could get equally sick drinking your tap water because they didn't develop the resistance you did. So maybe we all have deities vouching for us!

Post 6

Got home from Mexico today. Got a bad bad case of this. It's kind of freaking out!

Post 3

yes i totally agree mrs.crumbly

Post 1

Of course, the actual Aztec ruler was not named Montezuma but Moctezuma. People forget about that, or just can't pronounce it? It's too bad he couldn't really get revenge, as the Spaniards really did bad things to him and his people.

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