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Traveler's Diarrhea

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Traveler's diarrhea causes your bowel movements (BMs) to become loose and watery. It is often caused by bacteria (bak-TEE-ree-ah), viruses, or parasites in food and water infected with bowel movements (BM). It most commonly occurs in certain areas of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Mexico, and Central and South America. Traveler's diarrhea usually lasts a few days.

AFTER YOU LEAVE:

Medicines:

  • Keep a current list of your medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Use vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.
  • Take your medicine as directed: Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him about any medicine allergies, and if you want to quit taking or change your medicine.
  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Antidiarrheal medicine: This medicine is given to decrease the amount of diarrhea you are having. Some of these medicines coat the intestine (bowel) and make the BM less watery. Other antidiarrheal medicine works by slowing down how fast the intestine is moving.
  • Antinausea medicine: This medicine may be given to calm your stomach and prevent vomiting.
  • Antiparasitic medicine: This medicine may be given to kill parasites. Parasites are living things that feed or eat off of other living things.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

How can I take care of myself at home?

  • Drink clear liquids during the first 24 hours or until the diarrhea stops. Drink at least eight to ten (8 ounce) cups of liquid each day. Ask your caregiver if you should drink oral rehydration solution (ORS). An ORS has the right amounts of water, salts, and sugar you need to replace body fluids. This may help prevent dehydration.
  • After the first 24 hours, you may eat bland foods. Bland foods include cooked cereals, rice, soup, bread, crackers, baked potatoes, eggs, and applesauce. You may eat regular foods after two to three days.

How can I help prevent traveler's diarrhea?

  • Before you travel to another country, ask your caregiver if you should take a medicine that contains bismuth subsalicylate, such as Pepto-Bismol®. Taking this medicine may cause your BMs and tongue to turn black for a short time. Talk to your caregiver first if you take aspirin often or as a regular medical treatment. Taking aspirin together with Pepto-Bismol® (or other medicines containing bismuth subsalicylate) may be harmful to your health. Children under the age of 18 who have recently had the flu, pregnant or breast-feeding women, and people with aspirin allergies should not use Pepto-Bismol® without asking their caregiver first.
  • When in foreign countries, drink only bottled or boiled water. Drink only canned or bottled beverages (carbonated soft drinks, beer, or wine). Do not put ice in your drinks. Boil water for at least four minutes or use purifying tablets or a system to treat the water.
  • Do not use tap (faucet) water to brush your teeth or to wash off food. Instead use a mouthwash solution or bottled water when brushing your teeth. Always wash your hands with purified or bottled water before handling or eating food. Hand washing helps prevent the spread of traveler's diarrhea to others.
  • Do not eat any raw fruits and vegetables except those that can be peeled. Do not eat raw meat and fish, sauces, salsa, or dressings. Do not eat or drink dairy products such as milk and ice cream.
  • Eat food that has been cooked well and is still hot. This includes steaming hot dishes and grilled foods right off the fire. Other good foods to eat are dry foods such as breads and crackers.
  • Breast feed babies under six months old, or give them powdered commercial formula mixed with boiled or bottled water.

For more information:

Before you travel, ask your caregiver if you need any vaccinations (immunization shots). Learn about the safeness of food and water, and common diseases in the country you plan to visit. Contact the following organizations to learn more about traveler's diarrhea and sanitary (clean) conditions in other countries:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    1600 Clifton Road
    Atlanta , GA 30333
    Phone: 1- 800 - 232-4636
    Web Address: http://www.cdc.gov/
  • World Health Organization
    Web Address: www.who.int

CONTACT A CAREGIVER IF:

  • You think are you becoming dehydrated. You may be dehydrated if you have a dry mouth, or you feel thirsty, dizzy, or lightheaded. You may also pass little or no urine.
  • Your diarrhea lasts for more than seven days.
  • You see mucus or worms in your BM.

SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have a bloody BM.
  • You have pain in your abdomen (belly) that is getting worse.
  • You are too weak to stand up.
  • Your baby or toddler gets diarrhea, or you get severe diarrhea.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.

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