Traveler's Diarrhea

What is Traveler’s Diarrhea?

Traveler's diarrhea (TD) is an intestinal Infection caused by ingesting bacteria, virus, parasites or contaminated food or water. TD is a frequent problem for travelers to developing countries with poor hygiene and sanitation practices. Symptoms of TD include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and fever. TD usually resolves on its own in three to five days, but can become severe in some cases.

Risk Factors for Traveler's Diarrhea

The risk of TD depends on many factors, including the destination, duration of the trip, activities and personal hygiene of the traveler. Generally, the risk of TD is greater when traveling to developing countries in clusters of people who have not had exposure to these illnesses in the past. These countries include Africa, Asia, Central and South America.

Symptoms of Traveler's Diarrhea

  • Watery diarrhea
  • Nausea/vomiting/abdominal cramps
  • Fever
  • Headache

Prevention of Traveler's Diarrhea

You can reduce the risk of getting traveler's diarrhea by taking some simple precautions with food and water:

  • Avoid food that is not cooked or that can not be peeled or boiled.
  • Avoid tap water, ice, fruits, and vegetables that may have been washed in unsafe water.
  • Never drink untreated water, including from streams, rivers, or lakes.
  • Eat only foods that have been cooked and served hot.
  • Avoid raw foods, salads, or fruits from street vendors.
  • Do not drink beverages with ice.

Treatment for Traveler's Diarrhea

If you develop diarrhea during your travels, it is important to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids to replace what you are losing in your diarrhea. Avoid sugary drinks like soda or fruit juice. Water, electrolyte-containing drinks (e.g. Gatorade/Powerade) or a rehydration solution are beneficial to replenish fluids and electrolytes. You should also take anti-diarrheal medications such as loperamide or bismuth subsalicylate to slow down the frequency of stool movements.