Traveler's diarrhea is
in people who travel to international destinations. It often happens in less developed countries.
The primary cause of traveler’s diarrhea is ingesting food or water that contains feces. The substance carries bacteria, a virus, or a parasite that causes the diarrhea. Examples of agents that can cause the diarrhea include:
(most common cause)
Escherichia coli, especially Enterotoxigenic
Giardia lambliaEntamoeba histolytica
Virus Attacking Cell
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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: People with weak immune systems
People with diabetes or
inflammatory bowel diseasePeople who take acid blockers or antacids
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
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Symptoms can include: Increased frequency and volume of stoolFrequent loose stools (4-5 watery bowel movements a day)Abdominal crampingNauseaVomitingFeverBloating
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.
Your doctor may direct you to self-treat if you are travelling to certain countries and have sudden moderate to severe diarrhea.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. 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 medicines include: Loperamide (Immodium)—Should not be used in children less than 2 years old, people with fever over 101.3 degrees F (38.5 degrees Celsius), and people with bloody diarrhea.Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol)—Should not be used in children, pregnant women, people with allergies to aspirin or salicylates.
If you are diagnosed with traveler's diarrhea, follow your doctor's
To help reduce your chance of getting traveler’s diarrhea, take the following steps: Avoid eating foods from street vendors or unsanitary eating establishments.Avoid raw or undercooked meat or seafood.Eat foods that are fully cooked and served hot.Avoid salads or unpeeled fruits. Have only fruits and vegetables that you peel yourself, such as bananas or oranges.Do not drink tap water or add ice cubes made from tap water.Drink only bottled water with a sealed cap or, if necessary, local water that you have boiled for 10 minutes or treated with iodine or chlorine.Bottled carbonated beverages, steaming hot tea or coffee, wine, and beer are all okay to drink.
Guerrant RL. Practice guidelines for the management of infectious diarrhea.
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Juckett G. Prevention and treatment of traveler’s diarrhea.
Am Fam Physician. 1999;60:119-136.
Yates J. Traveler’s diarrhea.
Am Fam Physician. 2005;71:2095-2100,2107-2108.
Last reviewed November 2012 by Brian Randall, 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.
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