Travelers’ diarrhea is the most predictable travel-related illness. Attack rates range from 30% to 70% of travelers, depending on the destination. Traditionally, it was thought that Travelers’ diarrhea could be prevented by following simple recommendations such as “boil it, peel, it, or forget it,” but studies have found that people who follow these rules still get ill.
Most Travelers’ diarrhea cases begin abruptly. The illness usually results in increased frequency, volume, and weight of stool. Altered stool consistency also is common. Typically, a traveler experiences four to five loose or watery bowel movements each day. Other commonly associated symptoms are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, bloating, fever, urgency, and malaise. Most cases are benign and resolve in 1-2 days without treatment. Travelers’ diarrhea is rarely life-threatening. The natural history of Travelers’ diarrhea is that 90% of cases resolve within 1 week, and 98% resolve within 1 month.
Travelers can minimize their risk for Travelers’ diarrhea by practicing the following effective preventive measures:
- Avoid eating foods or drinking beverages purchased from street vendors or other establishments where unhygienic conditions are present
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat and seafood
- Avoid eating raw fruits (e.g., oranges, bananas, avocados) and vegetables unless the traveler peels them.
If handled properly well-cooked and packaged foods usually are safe. Tap water, ice, unpasteurized milk, and dairy products are associated with increased risk for Travelers’ diarrhea. Safe beverages include bottled carbonated beverages, hot tea or coffee, beer, wine, and water boiled or appropriately treated with iodine or chlorine.
To ensure your health is properly protected against Travelers’ Diarrhea and more, visit a Passport Health Travel Clinic before you go!