Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
People get traveler's diarrhea by eating food
and drinking water that contain germs. People can get this illness in areas of
the world where drinking water is not clean.
Cooks and food handlers may have the germs that
cause traveler's diarrhea on their hands, but they may not get sick themselves.
In the same way, people who live in a place often drink tap water that contains
these germs, but they do not get diarrhea. This is because their bodies are used
to the germs. When people travel to a new place, they are more likely to become
sick, because they lack protective antibodies (infection-fighting agents in the
blood) that attack these germs.
How can I avoid
When you are visiting an area where the water
may not be clean, you should be careful about these things:
- Do not drink tap water and do not use it to brush
- Do not drink bottled water if the seal on the
bottle has been broken.
- Do not use ice that has been made from tap water.
- Do not drink milk or eat dairy products that have
not been pasteurized (heated to a temperature where all germs are killed).
- Do not eat raw fruits or vegetables unless they
can be peeled and you are the one who peels them.
- Do not eat lettuce and other leafy raw vegetables
(like spinach), and do not eat cut-up fruit salad.
- Do not eat raw or rare (slightly cooked) meat or
- Do not eat food from people who sell food on the
What is safe to
eat or drink?
When you are in a place where you could get
traveler's diarrhea, you can feel safe eating or drinking the
- Soft drinks that are carbonated (drinks with a
gas called carbon dioxide in them).
- Hot drinks, such as tea or coffee.
- Carbonated or noncarbonated bottled water as long
as you are the one who breaks the seal on the bottle.
- Raw fruits or vegetables that can be peeled, as
long as you are the one who peels them.
- Food that is served hot.
- Meat that is well cooked.
If I get
traveler's diarrhea, what should I drink?
If you get traveler's diarrhea, you need to
replace the fluid you lose by drinking a rehydrating solution. If you cannot
find a rehydrating solution, you should drink pasteurized fruit juices,
caffeine-free soft drinks or bottled water, and you should eat salted
Should I use
medicine to treat traveler's diarrhea?
Medicines you get from your doctor, such as
diphenoxylate with atropine (brand name: Lomotil), and antidiarrheal medicines
you can buy in a drugstore, such as loperamide (brand names: Imodium,
Kaopectate, Maalox) or bismuth subsalicylate (brand name: Pepto-Bismol), often
can make you feel better more quickly. You may also need antibiotics (medicines
that kill bacteria). Medicines can be very helpful if you have diarrhea 3 or
more times in less than 8 hours, and if you also have other problems, such as
cramping, fever or blood in your stools (bowel movements). Before you go on a
trip, ask your doctor what medicines to take if you get
While I am on my
trip, should I take medicine every day so I won't get diarrhea?
Not usually. But you may want to talk about this
with your doctor before you go on your trip. You may want to take an antibiotic
every day if you will be on your trip for less than 2 weeks and if you have
kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, AIDS or an illness that affects the digestive