Travelers Diarrhea

The most common illness a traveler often encounters is Traveler’s diarrhea. The onset of this disease occurs within a week of travel or during travelling or even after returning back to home. It is estimated that every year about 20-50% of travelers develop traveler’s diarrhea.

People who travel to high risk destinations like Latin America, Africa, Middle East, and other developing countries are more likely to get infected with traveler’s diarrhea. In particular, young adults, people with weak immunity, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, and people on medications like antacids are at high risk.


The basic cause of traveler’s diarrhea is encountering bacteria, virus or a parasite, which you pick up during your travel. The commonly blamed bacterium is enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC).

The primary mode of infection is by consuming food or water that is fecally contaminated. If the destination you are visiting doesn’t have clean drinking water or no proper sanitation, then you are more likely to get traveler’s diarrhea.

You might wonder how people living in the same place, drinking and eating the same contaminated food do not get diarrhea. This is because they are used to it and their body develops protective antibodies to fight and nil the effect of these germs.

Other causes include change in food habits, disruption in normal bowel cycle due to jet lag, and stress.


Symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea begin all of a sudden. A few of the symptoms are mentioned below;

  • Frequent, loose, watery, and increased volume of stool
  • <liLoose, watery bowel movements
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Bloating of stomach
  • Urgent bowel movements
  • Malaise (feeling unwell)
  • Severe dehydration
  • Bloody stool
  • Diarrhea

Symptoms are short lived and they mostly resolve on their own.

Healthy diet

If you are travelling to high risk destinations, then it is important that you be careful of what you are eating. Foods that you can prefer to eat to prevent diarrhea are

  • Soft carbonated drinks, like cola
  • Tea or coffee
  • Carbonated or non-carbonated water
  • Fruits and vegetables that can be peeled and consumed
  • Foods that are served hot
  • Well cooked meat

If you are already suffering from traveler’s diarrhea, then it is better to avoid the following food as it would worsen your condition.

  • consuming caffeine,
  • milk and milk products,
  • greasy or fatty foods,
  • high fiber foods,
  • sweets

As you start feeling good, you can add well cooked soft bland diet, banana, boiled potatoes, plain rice, crackers, cooked carrots, and well baked chicken without fat or skin.


Traveler’s diarrhea is a self limited disease that mostly resolves on its own. Many people do not require any specific treatment for traveler’s diarrhea, however, it is important that you frequently consume liquid diet or oral rehydration that helps to replace the lost fluid and avoid dehydration.

If you are suffering from other symptoms along with diarrhea, then an antimicrobial medicine may be beneficial. Fluoroquinolones, an antibiotic is the drugs prescribed mostly.

Other commonly prescribed medicines are antimotility agents that slow the movement of stool in the intestine and give more time for water absorption, ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin, and bismuth subsalicylate.

It is always better to consult your physician before taking any of these medicines. If your symptoms do not subside even after taking these medicines then you should be evaluated by your physician to find out the exact cause and to treat you for possible parasite infection.


Before travelling, it is advised that you see your doctor and get some medicines like antibiotics or shots to prevent and protect you from falling ill. During your trip you should be cautious about the following things. These are a few remedies for diarrhea.

  • Avoid drinking tap water
  • Do not use tap water even for brushing your teeth
  • Drink water from a sealed bottle
  • If you can, boil your water and drink
  • Avoid consuming ice, unless you are sure that it is made from pure water
  • Avoid drinking milk if you suspect that it is not pasteurized
  • Eat fruits and vegetables that can be peeled
  • Never eat already sliced fruits or vegetables
  • Avoid raw vegetables and spinach
  • Say NO to raw or half-cooked meat
  • Avoid eating food from street vendors and other unhygienic places