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Traveler's Diarrhea (cont.)

Traveler's Diarrhea Medications and Treatment

For mild cases, the doctor may recommend the nonprescription medications bismuth subsalicylate and loperamide (see previous precaution).

The use of an antibiotics can reduce the duration of illness from days to hours. For moderate to severe diarrhea, the doctor may prescribe one of these antibiotics:

Traveler's Diarrhea Prevention

Avoid these foods when traveling:

  • Raw vegetables
  • Raw fish, meat, and dairy products
  • Raw leafy vegetables
  • Unpeeled fruits
  • Tap water
  • Ice
  • Any food from street vendors

These foods and drinks are generally safe to eat and drink.

  • Well-cooked fish, meats, and vegetables served hot
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Boiled water (3-5 minutes)
    • If boiling water is not possible, other options include putting tincture of iodine drops in water (5 drops per quart of water), use of tetracycline iodine drops in water, or chlorine bleach to treat water (two drops per quart of water). These preparations can be obtained from camping and sporting goods stores. These methods are not as effective if water is cloudy or muddy.
  • It is best to see your physician prior to foreign travel a and bring the necessary medications with you to prevent any unnecessary trips to doctors or hospitals in foreign countries.
  • The use of a single daily dose of an antibiotic is up to 90% effective in preventing traveler's diarrhea; however, preventive use of antibiotics is not routinely recommended except in special circumstances such as travelers with weakened immune systems, those with significant other medical illnesses, or for people traveling to very high-risk areas.

Traveler's Diarrhea Prognosis

Although it can ruin a vacation, traveler's diarrhea rarely requires hospitalization and usually is not life-threatening unless severe dehydration develops.

  • Untreated, the diarrhea typically lasts three to five days.
  • Twenty percent of people have symptoms severe enough to keep them in bed.
  • In some of people, the illness will last more than a week.
  • Traveler's diarrhea is not life-threatening to an otherwise healthy person. In the very young, very old, and people with weakened immune systems, it can be dangerous.

Medically reviewed by Joseph Palermo, DO; American Osteopathic Board Certified Internal Medicine


MedscapeReference. Travel Medicine and Vaccination. Traveler's Diarrhea.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/20/2017
Medical Author:

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