Traveler’s Diarrhea and How to Stop It

travelers diarrheaMany people often wonder why, after being away on vacation to an exciting foreign country, they arrive back home with an unpleasant bout of diarrhea. This illness is actually very common and is called “traveler’s diarrhea”. Traveler’s diarrhea happens after traveling to a region with poor public hygiene. Some regions, like parts of Asia or Mexico, are at higher risk for contracting traveler’s diarrhea, but it can infect people anywhere. 

Traveler’s diarrhea is caused by drinking water or eating food contaminated with viruses, bacteria, or even parasites that then give you unpleasant stomach pain or intestinal pain, abdominal distention, and a nasty case of diarrhea. It typically occurs within 10 days of travel to an area that has different public health and hygiene practices than one is used to. Luckily, there are ways to help alleviate the discomfort from traveler’s diarrhea, and even stop it before it happens.

Some common precautions you can take are simple things like avoiding unfiltered or unsterilized water, such as water from a well or stream, keeping your mouth closed while showering, washing your hands thoroughly before eating, and keeping infants and young children from putting their hands or other unsanitary items into their mouths. 

Many travel health specialists will prescribe an antibiotic to patients traveling to regions with a higher risk of traveler’s diarrhea. While having the antibiotic won’t prevent an infection, it can be used if a patient begins experiencing the symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea while abroad, lessening the discomfort and allowing the vacation to continue without the frustration of an upset stomach. It may be time to see a doctor if you begin experiencing traveler’s diarrhea along with severe stomach pain, bloody stool, persistent vomiting, or other symptoms that are not consistent with traveler’s diarrhea.