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Traveler's Diarrhea (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care for Traveler's Diarrhea

When to call the doctor

  • If diarrhea lasts longer than three days
  • If blood, mucus, or worms are seen in stool
  • If the person has pain in the abdomen or rectum
  • If the person has a temperaturegreater than 102 F (38.8 C)
  • If a severe headache develops
  • If the person has signs of water loss including dry mouth, excessive thirst, little or no urination, or feels lightheaded
  • If the person's immune system is weakened by another condition such as HIV or cancer
  • If the symptoms do not improve when the individual drinks fluids or uses nonprescription medications for diarrhea
  • Vomiting prevents fluid intake

When to go to the hospital

Traveler's Diarrhea Diagnosis

Diagnosis of traveler's diarrhea is made solely on the signs and symptoms. Laboratory testing is not necessary in most instances. If signs and symptoms last longer than a week or bloody diarrhea occurs, the doctor may order stool cultures for microscopic examination for parasites.

Traveler's Diarrhea Self-Care at Home

Drink 2-3 quarts of fluid per day. In the first 24 hours the best fluids to drink are bottled fruit juices and beverages, caffeine-free soft drinks, hot tea, and broth; try to match the amount of fluid lost in the stools with the amount of fluid taken in orally.

During the next 24 hours, eat bland foods such as rice, soup, bread, crackers, eggs, and cereals. Advance to regular foods after two or three days.

With more severe cases, over-the-counter medications may help reduce symptoms and shorten the time they last.

  • Antimotility agents, such as loperamide (Imodium), give the stools more consistency and provide some relief from symptoms, however, many health care practitioners use these agents for emergencies only (airplane travel) because the decreased motility may prolong the disease.
  • Bismuth subsalicylate ( (Pepto-Bismol) is also moderately effective. Use according to package directions or upon direction of a doctor.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/4/2016
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