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Cholera is an infection that can cause severe watery diarrhea and vomiting. These can start 12 hours to 5 days after you are infected with the bacteria that cause cholera. The diarrhea and vomiting cause severe dehydration that can lead to death within hours without treatment. It is important to drink liquids so you prevent dehydration.


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) or have someone call if:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You are confused or cannot think clearly.
  • You are extremely sleepy, or another person cannot wake you.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your heart is beating faster than usual.
  • Your skin does not return to a normal position if you pinch it (stays pinched).
  • You have a dry mouth, throat, eyes, or nose.
  • Your eyes look deeply sunken, or you have no tears when you cry.
  • You have muscle cramps.
  • You feel like you are going to faint.
  • You are too weak to stand up.
  • You are dizzy or lightheaded.
  • You urinate less than usual, or your urine is dark yellow.
  • You have severe abdominal pain.
  • Your hands or feet are cold, or your face is pale.

Call your doctor if:

  • You are not able to drink any liquids.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Antibiotics are given to kill the bacteria.
  • Zinc may be given to children younger than 5 years. Zinc can help shorten the amount of time the diarrhea lasts. It can also help prevent watery diarrhea from other causes in the future.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Prevent dehydration:

  • An oral rehydration solution (ORS) can help prevent or treat dehydration. An ORS has the right amounts of water, salts, and sugar your body needs. Your healthcare provider can tell you where to get an ORS. He or she can also tell you how much ORS to drink each day. You may need to drink several quarts for the first few days to prevent dehydration.
  • Breastfeed your child if he or she is infected and is still breastfeeding. Breast milk contains important nutrition for your child. It will also help prevent dehydration. Talk to your child's pediatrician if he or she is having trouble breastfeeding.

Help prevent cholera:

The following steps are part of the Water, Sanitation, And Hygiene (WASH) program. WASH was created to help prevent the spread of cholera.

  • Wash your hands often. Wash your hands several times each day. Wash after you use the bathroom, change a child's diaper, and before you prepare or eat food. Use soap and water every time. Rub your soapy hands together, lacing your fingers. Wash the front and back of your hands, and in between your fingers. Use the fingers of one hand to scrub under the fingernails of the other hand. Wash for at least 20 seconds. Rinse with warm, running water for several seconds. Then dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel. Use hand sanitizer that contains alcohol if soap and water are not available. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands first.
  • Dispose of children's bowel movements safely. It is important for the bowel movement to be contained so it does not get back into the water supply. Talk to your child's healthcare provider about how to dispose of the bowel movements safely. You may need to follow local laws in your area.
  • Drink and use only bottled, purified, or boiled liquids when you travel. Do not put ice in your drinks. Boil water for at least 4 minutes, or use purifying tablets to treat the water. Use bottled or treated water to brush your teeth or wash dishes.
  • Do not eat raw food or dairy when you travel. Examples include fruits, raw vegetables in salads, oysters, clams, or undercooked meat. Do not have milk, ice cream, or other dairy products. Eat foods that are served hot or steaming, breads, peeled fruits and vegetables, and grilled foods.
  • Prepare foods safely. Cook eggs until the yolks are firm. Use a meat thermometer to make sure meat is heated to 165°F (73.9°C) to kill any bacteria. Do not eat raw or undercooked poultry, seafood, or meat. Use only bottled, purified, or boiled water to prepare foods or clean in the kitchen. Rinse fruits and vegetables in running water. Clean cutting boards, knives, countertops, and other areas where you prepare food before and after you cook. Wash sponges and dishtowels weekly in hot water.
  • Ask about the cholera vaccine. The need for the vaccine depends on the country you live in and your travel habits. The vaccine is not given routinely. It is only given to people who are at high risk for infection. Your healthcare provider can tell you if you need the vaccine and when to get it.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Cholera (Aftercare Instructions)

Associated drugs

Mayo Clinic Reference

Further information

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