Travelers Diarrhea



The main cause of this problem is ingesting food or water that is contaminated with:

  • Bacteria, such as escherichia coli (E. coli), campylobacter, salmonella, and shingella
  • Viruses, such as rotavirus and norovirus
  • Parasites, such as protozoa and giardia

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in people who visit countries that lack safe water supplies and sanitation. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Problems with the way the immune system works
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Taking acid blockers or antacids



A person may have:

  • More bowel movements with more stool
  • Frequent loose stools—4 to 5 watery bowel movements a day
  • Belly cramping
  • Bloating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is enough to make the diagnosis.



Most people get better on their own in three to five days without treatment. Symptoms can be managed with:

Diet Changes

Drink plenty of clear fluids or an oral hydration solution to help prevent dehydration. This will replace the fluids lost in the diarrhea. Slowly go back to eating foods.


Antibiotics may be given to reduce how long symptoms last. They are only helpful for treating infections caused by bacteria.

Antidiarrheal medicine may also be given. Examples are loperamide and bismuth subsalicylate.


To lower the risk of this health problem when traveling:

  • Do not eat foods from street vendors or unsanitary eating places.
  • Do not eat meat or seafood that is raw or not fully cooked.
  • Eat foods that are fully cooked and served hot.
  • Do not eat salads or unpeeled fruits. Have only fruits and vegetables that can be peeled, such as bananas or oranges.
  • Do not drink tap water or use ice cubes. Do not use the water for toothbrushing.
  • Drink only bottled water with a sealed cap or local water that has been boiled for 10 minutes or treated with iodine or chlorine.
  • Sealed bottled carbonated beverages, steaming hot tea or coffee, wine, and beer are all okay to drink.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.