Traveler's Diarrhea

Traveler's diarrhea is one of the most common health problems suffered by people traveling to developing countries.  It is rarely serious but can be quite uncomfortable and decrease enjoyment of a vacation or business trip.

Causes

A variety of bacteria or viruses cause Traveler's diarrhea but the most common is E. coli, which comes from fecal material. Other common bacteria are Salmonella and Shigella.  Travelers' diarrhea is acquired by consuming contaminated food and/or water.

Symptoms

One will usually have four to five loose or watery stools per day for an average of three to four days. Fever, vomiting, and bloody stools are rare.  Symptoms usually start within the first week but may occur any time and may even begin after returning to this country.  You can get it more than once.

Treatment

Clear fluids for 24 hours; no caffeine, no dairy products.  Bland foods for the following 24 hours. Imodium AD is available over the counter and can be used as directed if no high fever or bloody stools.  Antibiotics such as sulfa drugs, cipro, or doxycycline may help if taken twice a day for 2 to 3 days.

Prevention

Avoid raw vegetables, raw meat, raw seafood, tap water ice, unpasteurized milk, and other dairy products.  Fruits are risky unless you peel them yourself. Drink bottled water, carbonated beverages, beer, wine, hot coffee, or tea.  Boil or chemically treat drinking water.  Avoid food from street vendors. Restaurants are slightly less risky.  Food in private homes is the safest but each situation needs your evaluation.

Consult a medical professional if you have any questions.