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Traveler's Diarrhea in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Sep 3, 2023.

What should I know about traveler's diarrhea?

Traveler's diarrhea occurs during travel or within 10 days after your child travels. Your child can get traveler's diarrhea when he or she eats or drinks contaminated food or water. The food or water may contain bacteria, a virus, or a parasite. Water from a faucet, ice, or drinks that are not sealed can be contaminated. Foods that are prepared with tap water or not cooked properly can also be contaminated.

What increases my child's risk for traveler's diarrhea?

  • Travel to South Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, Central America, South America, or Mexico
  • Medicines that decrease stomach acid
  • Conditions that weaken the immune system, such as HIV or AIDS
  • Eating food from street vendors
  • Hiking or camping outdoors

What other signs or symptoms might my child have?

Your child may have 3 or more episodes of diarrhea. It may be hard for your child to control his or her diarrhea. Your child may also have any of the following:

  • Cramps or pain in his or her abdomen
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling full or bloated
  • Fever or tiredness

How is traveler's diarrhea diagnosed and treated?

Your child's healthcare provider will examine him or her. A sample of your child's bowel movement may be taken if symptoms last for more than 2 weeks. The sample can be tested for the germ that is causing your child's diarrhea. Your child may need medicine to treat an infection caused by bacteria or a parasite. Your child may also need medicine to help slow or stop diarrhea.

What can I do to manage my child's symptoms?

  • Give your child plenty of liquids. This will help to prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid your child should drink each day and which liquids are best for him or her. Give your baby extra breast milk or formula to prevent dehydration. If you feed your baby formula, give him or her lactose free formula while he or she is sick.
  • Give your child an oral rehydration solution (ORS) as directed. An ORS has the right amounts of water, salts, and sugar that your child needs to replace lost body fluids. You can buy an ORS at most grocery stores and pharmacies. Ask what kind of ORS your child needs and how much he or she should drink.
  • Give your child foods he or she can tolerate. Examples include rice, potatoes, and bread. It also includes fruits (bananas, melon), and well-cooked vegetables. You may need to feed your child smaller amounts of food more often. Avoid giving your child foods that are high in fiber, fat, and sugar.

How can I help prevent traveler's diarrhea?

  • Ask if your child should take certain medicines or get vaccines before travel. Your child's healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics to prevent traveler's diarrhea. Vaccines can help protect your child against bacteria or viruses that cause traveler's diarrhea.
  • Give your child bottled, canned, or boiled liquids only. Do not put ice in your child's drinks. Boil water for at least 4 minutes, or use purifying tablets to treat the water. Give your child bottled or treated water to brush his or her teeth. Only give your child milk that is pasteurized or bottled.
  • Do not give your child raw or undercooked food. Examples include fruits, raw vegetables in salads, oysters, clams, or undercooked meat. Give your child foods that are served hot or steaming, breads, peeled fruits and vegetables, and grilled foods. Have your child avoid food from street vendors whenever possible.
  • Remind your child to wash his or her hands well and often. Your child should wash his or her hands with soap and bottled water. He or she should wash his or her hands after using the toilet and before he or she eats.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child has dry, cool skin.
  • Your child seems confused.
  • Your child has severe abdominal pain.
  • Your child has blood in his or her bowel movements.
  • Your child urinates less than usual, or his urine is dark yellow.
  • Your child has no wet diapers for 6 to 8 hours.
  • Your child cannot drink any liquids.
  • Your child cries without tears.
  • Your child's eyes look sunken in, or the soft spot on your infant's head looks sunken in.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child has a fever higher than 102°F (38.8°C) or higher.
  • Your child has worsening abdominal pain.
  • Your child has a dry mouth and lips.
  • Your child's diarrhea does not improve with treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. 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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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.