Traveler's diarrhea is loose, watery stools. People can get
traveler's diarrhea when they visit places where the water is not
clean or the food is not handled safely. This can include
third-world or developing countries in Latin America, Africa, the
Middle East, and Asia.
This article discusses what you should eat or drink if you have
See also: Diarrhea
Diet - traveler's diarrhea; Diarrhea - traveler's - diet
Bacteria and other substances in the water and food can cause
traveler's diarrhea. People living in these areas often don't get
sick because their bodies are used to the bacteria.
You can lower your risk for getting traveler's diarrhea by
avoiding water, ice, and food that may be contaminated. The goal of
the traveler's diarrhea diet is to make your symptoms better and
prevent you from getting dehydrated.
Traveler's diarrhea is rarely dangerous in adults. It can be
more serious in children.
How to prevent traveler's diarrhea:
Do not use tap water to drink or brush your teeth.
Do not use ice made from tap water.
Use only boiled water (boiled for at least 5 minutes) for
mixing baby formula.
For infants, breastfeeding is the best and safest food source.
However, the stress
of traveling may reduce the amount of milk you make.
Drink only pasteurized milk.
Drink bottled drinks if the seal on the bottle hasn't been
Sodas and hot drinks are usually safe.
Do not eat raw fruits and vegetables unless you peel them.
Do not eat raw leafy vegetables (e.g. lettuce, spinach,
cabbage) because they are hard to clean.
Do not eat raw or rare meats.
Do not buy food from street vendors.
Eat hot, well-cooked foods. Heat kills the bacteria. But do not
eat hot foods that have been sitting around for a long time.
Wash hands often.
Watch children carefully so they do not put things in their
mouths or touch dirty items and then put their hands in their
If possible, keep infants from crawling on dirty floors.
Check to see that utensils and dishes are clean.
There is no vaccine against traveler's diarrhea.
Your doctor may recommend medicines to help lower your chances
of getting sick.
Taking two tablets of Pepto-Bismol four times a day before you
travel and while you are traveling can help prevent diarrhea. Do
not take Pepto-Bismol for more than 3 weeks.
Most people do not need to take antibiotics every day to
prevent diarrhea while traveling.
People who are at risk for more dangerous infections (because
chronic bowel diseases, kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, or HIV)
should talk to their doctor before traveling.
If you have diarrhea, follow these tips to help you feel
Drink 8 to 10 glasses of clear fluids every day. Water is
Drink at least 1 cup of liquid every time you have a loose
Eat small meals every few hours instead of three big
Eat some salty foods, such as pretzels, soup, and sports
Eat foods that are high in potassium, such as bananas, potatoes
without the skin, and fruit juices.
Dehydration means your body does not have as much water and
fluids as it should. It is a very big problem for children or
people who are in a hot climate. Signs of severe dehydration
Decreased urine (fewer wet diapers in infants)
Few tears when crying
Give your child fluids for the first 4 - 6 hours. At first, try
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of fluid every 30 to 60 minutes.
You can use an over-the-counter drink, such as Pedialyte or
Infalyte. Do not add water to these drinks.
You can also try Pedialyte popsicles.
Fruit juice or broth with water added to it may also help.
These drinks can give your child important minerals that are being
lost in the diarrhea.
If you are breastfeeding your infant, keep doing it. If you are
using formula, use it at half-strength for two to three feedings
after the diarrhea starts. Then you can begin regular formula
In third-world countries, many health agencies stock packets of
salts to mix with water. If these fluids are not available, you can
make an emergency solution by mixing:
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons sugar or rice powder
1/4 teaspoon potassium chloride (salt substitute)
1/2 teaspoon trisodium citrate (can be replaced with baking
1 liter of clean water
If you or your child has symptoms of severe dehydration, or if
you have a fever or bloody stools, get medical attention right
Arguin P. Approach to the patient before and after travel. In:
Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Textbook of Medicine.
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Hill DR, Ericsson CD, Pearson RD, et al. The practice of travel
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Review Date: 02/07/2011
George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser
Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also
reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M.,