Traveler's diarrhea is diarrhea in people who travel to international destinations. It often happens in less developed countries.
The primary cause of traveler’s diarrhea is ingesting contaminated food or water. The substance carries bacteria, a virus, or a parasite that causes the diarrhea. Examples of agents that can cause the diarrhea include:
The pathogen that causes the infection will partly depend on the area of travel.
The most important risk factor for getting traveler’s diarrhea is the destination. Underdeveloped countries with unsafe water supplies pose the highest risk. The following factors increase your chance of getting traveler’s diarrhea. If you have any of these risk factors and plan to travel internationally, tell your doctor:
Symptoms can include:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
A stool sample may be taken. This will allow your doctor to identify the pathogen.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Your doctor may direct you to self-treat if you are travelling to certain countries and have sudden moderate to severe diarrhea. People who get traveler's diarrhea usually get better within 3-5 days even without treatment. Treatment options include the following:
It is important for people who have diarrhea to make sure they are drinking plenty of clear fluids. This will replace the fluids lost in the diarrhea. Some people may need to use an oral rehydration solution such as children and older adults who are more likely to become dehydrated.
Antibiotics may reduce how long symptoms last by 1-2 days. These antibiotics are only helpful for treating infections caused by bacteria.
Antimotility agents may help relieve symptoms of diarrhea. Examples of these medications include:
If you are diagnosed with traveler's diarrhea, follow your doctor's instructions.
To help reduce your chance of getting traveler’s diarrhea, take the following steps:
American Gastroenterological Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education
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Last reviewed December 2013 by Peter Lucas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.