99684 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Traveler’s Diarrhea


    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 food or water that contains feces. The substance carries a bacteria, virus, or parasite that causes the diarrhea. Examples of agents that can cause the diarrhea include:
      Bacteria (most common cause)
      • Escherichia coli , especially Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC)
      • Campylobacter
      • Shigella
      • Salmonella
      • Rotavirus
      • Norwalk virus
      • Giardia lambli
      • Entamoeba histolytica
    Virus Attacking Cell
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
    The pathogen that causes the infection will partly depend on the area of travel.

    Risk Factors

    The most important risk factor for getting traveler’s diarrhea is the destination. Underdeveloped countries with unsafe water supplies 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:
    Inflammatory Bowel Disease
    Crohn's Disease
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    Symptoms can include:
    • Increased frequency and volume of stool
    • Frequent loose stools (4-5 watery bowel movements a day)
    • Abdominal cramping
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Fever
    • Bloating


    Your doctor will ask 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.
    Your doctor may direct you to self-treat if you are travelling to certain countries and have sudden moderate to severe diarrhea.


    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. 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 a bacteria.

    Antimotility Agents

    Antimotility agents may help relieve symptoms of diarrhea. Examples of these medicines include:
    • Loperamide (Immodium)—Should not be used in children less than 2 years old, people with fever over 101.3 degrees F (38.5 degrees Celsius), and people with bloody diarrhea.
    • Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol)—Should not be used in children, pregnant women, people with allergies to aspirin or salicylates.
    If you are diagnosed with traveler's diarrhea, follow your doctor's instructions .


    To help reduce your chance of getting traveler’s diarrhea, take the following steps:
    • Avoid eating foods from street vendors or unsanitary eating establishments.
    • Avoid raw or undercooked meat or seafood.
    • Eat foods that are fully cooked and served hot.
    • Avoid salads or unpeeled fruits. Have only fruits and vegetables that you peel yourself, such as bananas or oranges.
    • Do not drink tap water or add ice cubes made from tap water.
    • Drink only bottled water with a sealed cap or, if necessary, local water that you have boiled for 10 minutes or treated with iodine or chlorine.
    • Bottled carbonated beverages, steaming hot tea or coffee, wine, and beer are all okay to drink.


    American Gastroenterological Association http://www.gastro.org/

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/


    Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education http://www.canfightbac.org/

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca


    Acute diarrhea in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated November 20, 2012. Accessed December 17, 2012.

    Acute diarrhea in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated November 20, 2012. Accessed December 17, 2012.

    Guerrant RL. Practice guidelines for the management of infectious diarrhea. Clinical Infectious Diseases . 2001:32:331-350.

    Juckett G. Prevention and treatment of traveler’s diarrhea. Am Fam Physician . 1999;60:119-136.

    Travelers' diarrhea. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/travelersdiarrhea%5Fg.htm . Updated november 21, 2006. Accessed December 17, 2012.

    Traveler's diarrhea. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated May 27, 2010. Accessed December 17, 2012.

    Yates J. Traveler’s diarrhea. Am Fam Physician . 2005;71:2095-2100,2107-2108.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.