What Is Traveler’s Diarrhea and How to Treat It

Travel is one of the great joys in life. More than 70% of American adults have been abroad at least once in their life, and those who haven’t tend to have an international destination on their bucket list. Unfortunately, there may be an unwelcome surprise waiting for them on their journey.

Traveler’s diarrhea has spoiled an incalculable number of vacations and business trips. And even the most cautious travelers have been known to fall prey to it.

But what is this traveler’s bane? And how can you avoid it, or failing that, manage it?

To help ensure your health and comfort on your next trip, it’s wise to familiarize yourself with its myriad causes and the best treatments for it.

The Bane of Any Journey Abroad

Traveler’s diarrhea is a digestive tract disorder, most often caused by taking in food or water that the body isn’t familiar with.

It tends to affect travelers because their systems are not acclimated to the conditions of whatever region that they’re visiting. Differences in cuisine and climate can be enough to cause it in sensitive individuals.

But more often, the culprit is substandard sanitary practices. Bacteria, viruses, and parasites can all cause traveler’s diarrhea. Eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water is the best way to catch it.

In either case, it tends to affect visitors much more than the locals. Having lived in the region most, if not all of their lives, they tend to have a resistance to common pathogens in the area.

The tell-tale symptoms are loose diarrhea and abdominal cramps. But depending on the type of traveler’s diarrhea, you might also experience bloating, excessive gas, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and fever.

While unpleasant, these symptoms tend to clear up on their own in a few days. However, traveler’s diarrhea can be severe.

Dehydration is the main threat. But severe cases can also cause intolerable pain, persistent vomiting for hours at a time, and high fevers. If these symptoms manifest, you need immediate medical attention.

Where Are You Most Likely to Contract It

Because traveler’s diarrhea is caused by contaminated food and drink, it could hypothetically strike anywhere. However, it tends to crop up more often in warm climates. Developing regions where sanitation practices are lacking also tend to carry higher risk.

Mexico is perhaps the most famous example. We’ve all heard horror stories of someone getting “Montezuma’s Revenge” from an ice cube made out of tap water. But Central and South America, in general, all have high incidences of it.

It also tends to crop up in regions of Africa or the Middle East where clean water is difficult to come by. And rural areas in Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and India are good places to catch it for the same reason.

In general, be cautious in developing nations, and rural communities in particular.

Treating Traveler’s Diarrhea

Tending to a case of traveler’s diarrhea depends on how severe it is.

Mild instances can be treated like any other case of digestive distress. But certain infections may be persistent and require medical intervention.


In most cases, you can manage traveler’s diarrhea with home remedies and over-the-counter medications.

The first step is to drink as many fluids as possible to combat potential dehydration. The caveat is to avoid coffee and alcohol. They’re doth diuretics and can make dehydration worse.

For diet, you’ll want to stick to bland foods that carry minimal risk of contamination. Toast, broth, crackers, and unseasoned rice are your friends here. Bananas are a good choice to take in some needed vitamins and minerals. With produce like apples, ensure that they’re washed with clean water to prevent reinfection.

Stomach medicines like Pepto-Bismol can be effective at managing mild cases.

And in a pinch, you can use antimotility drugs like Imodium. It prevents diarrhea in the short term, but can end up prolonging the illness by not allowing your body to eliminate harmful materials. So it should be reserved only for necessary instances like air travel.

Medical Intervention

If home remedies fail to improve your condition, you may need medical treatment. What form this treatment takes depends on whether your illness is due to bacteria or parasites.

First, a doctor will need to diagnose your infection.

This can include stool tests to check for signs of parasites. They may also run a battery of blood tests to look for signs of specific bacterial or viral infection. Blood tests can also reveal the extent of your dehydration.

Common bacterial infections can be dealt with using standard antibiotics. Doxycycline and ciprofloxacin are two medications a doctor might give you.

Parasitic infections tend to be more difficult to treat, and the medication you’ll be given depends on the type of parasite you have.

If you got sick by drinking contaminated water, the culprit is probably due to protozoa. These single-cell parasites usually live in water sources like rivers and lakes. But they can also appear in damp soil, making contaminated produce a possibility as well.

Nitazoxanide, known by the brand name Alina, is a medication for treating these unwelcome stowaways. And because harmful protozoa can be found wherever there’s water, keeping some of this medication handy is a good idea. To add it to your travel first aid kit, you can buy Alinia online.

In case, a doctor will check for signs of dehydration. If your fluids levels are substantially depleted, they may administer a course of intravenous fluids.

Preparation for Safe Travels

There are steps you can take to be safe on your travels. Be mindful of your belongings, stay out of rough parts of town, that sort of thing.

But you can’t avoid eating and drinking. So knowing how best to protect yourself from traveler’s diarrhea, or treat it if avoidance isn’t possible, is information every traveler needs.

But it’s far from the only thing a world traveler should know. For all the information to make your next journey abroad safe and successful, be sure to follow our latest lifestyle news.


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