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
Problems may be:
- Increased frequency and volume of stool
- Frequent loose stools—4 to 5 watery bowel movements a day
- Belly cramping
- Nausea and vomiting
Most people get better on their own in 3 to 5 days without treatment. Symptoms can be managed with:
Drinking plenty of clear fluids or an oral hydration solution can help prevent dehydration. This will replace the fluids lost in the diarrhea. Foods should be slowly reintroduced.
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 establishments.
- Do not eat raw or undercooked meat or seafood.
- Eat foods that are fully cooked and served hot.
- Do not eat salads or unpeeled fruits. Have only fruits and vegetables 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.
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