Answers to Common Questions About Traveler’s Diarrhea

Traveler’s diarrhea can happen to anyone, but thankfully there are ways to relieve it.

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Traveler’s diarrhea is no joke and can really ruin your long-anticipated vacation. Bouts of traveler’s diarrhea can occur during visits to foreign countries as well as domestic trips and can happen whether you are staying in a fancy hotel or a backpacker’s hostel. Traveler’s diarrhea is so common that we’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions that cover all the information you need to help prevent, recognize, and recover from traveler’s diarrhea. Here are some of the most common questions about traveler’s diarrhea.

What is traveler’s diarrhea?

Traveler’s diarrhea often occurs when you travel and consume food or water your body isn’t used to. Often, these foods or drinks are contaminated with a microorganism that your body doesn’t frequently encounter. Wanting to protect itself from this unfamiliar and potentially dangerous intruder, your body’s natural immune response is to flush it out – thus, diarrhea. So, while locals can eat and drink without fear of diarrhea, you should take precautions. Like any other type of diarrhea, traveler’s diarrhea is defined as three or more loose, runny stools that occur within a 24-hour period.

How do I know if I have traveler's diarrhea? 

Symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea can range from an upset stomach to painful diarrhea, and everything in between, including bloating, gas, nausea or even fever. Cases can range from mild to severe, and while most will resolve themselves on their own with some simple actions, while others will require a doctor’s visit.

How long does traveler's diarrhea last? 

A typical case of traveler’s diarrhea will usually last for two to three days. If any case of traveler’s diarrhea persists longer than three days or is accompanied by a high fever, black, tarry, or bloody stools and/or signs of dehydration, seek medical attention.

Is traveler's diarrhea contagious? 

You might be surprised to learn that yes, traveler’s diarrhea can be contagious. While most cases are obtained by ingesting contaminated food or beverage, many microorganisms can survive on surfaces such as hands, water bottles, door knobs, etc., and can be passed on to other people.

What should I eat when I have traveler's diarrhea?

Like any other type of diarrhea, be sure to stick to simple-to-digest foods that are nourishing to the body. Avoid inflammatory foods that can worsen your symptoms. Foods such as bone or vegetable broths, bananas, soups, and stews are safe bets, along with plenty of hydrating foods and beverages. Hydrate with pure water, and replenish electrolytes with natural coconut water (no added sugar), or a DIY electrolyte drink. Avoid foods high in sugar and foods high in fat, along with fruit juices.

How can I relieve traveler's diarrhea? 

To relieve occasional traveler’s diarrhea, there are three steps to take. First, pay attention to what you’re eating. A bland diet will suit you best, so focus on bread, rice, and other foods that are high in fiber. If you are still traveling, you should avoid any foods that may have been washed in the local water, like fresh fruit and salad. Second, you can try products that provide diarrhea relief without having to go see a doctor. Most over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medicines work by slowing down the movement in your gut to relieve the symptoms. But consider a more natural solution for diarrhea relief; a product that works with your body to address the source of the problem and provides beneficial nutrients to help restore normal function fast. Lastly, if your diarrhea still isn’t going away, is particularly severe, or contains blood, you should talk to your doctor about possibly taking antibiotics.

How can I prevent traveler's diarrhea?

Sometimes traveler’s diarrhea is unavoidable, but there are some practices to help prevent it. Choose your foods carefully (avoiding street vendors and staying away from fruits and vegetables that cannot be peeled), opt for cooked rather than raw foods, be sure you don’t ingest undercooked meats or seafood, drink bottled water, and wash your hands frequently. For more detailed information on how to avoid traveler’s diarrhea, check out our article here. By following these tips, you can make the most of your travels and stay healthy. Take proper precautions, know the warning signs, and pack the proper foods and medications just in case.