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 pathogen that is ingested causes the diarrhea. Examples of pathogens 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 or sanitation 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:
You will be asked 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 traveling 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:
To help reduce your chances of traveler’s diarrhea:
American Gastroenterological Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Be Food Safe—Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education
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Travelers' diarrhea. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/travelers-diarrhea. Updated October 23, 2017. Accessed December 15, 2017.
Traveler's diarrhea. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116545/Travelers-diarrhea. Updated September 28, 2017. Accessed December 15, 2017.
Traveler’s diarrhea. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/gastroenteritis/traveler%E2%80%99s-diarrhea. Updated May 2017. Accessed December 15, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD Last Updated: 12/15/2017