Traveler's Diarrhea

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that traveler's diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travelers. Diarrhea causes include bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can be picked up while traveling. These are most often found in water or food that has been prepared under unsanitary conditions. Other diarrhea causes include eating different kinds of food than what you are used to eating; jet lag, which can disrupt normal bowel cycles; and stress/excitement over traveling.

High-risk destinations include developing countries in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. High-risk travelers include the very young and the elderly, and those with suppressed immune systems or with other medical problems. Those with inflammatory bowel disease are particularly at risk for traveler's diarrhea.

Symptoms of traveler's diarrhea come on quickly and include loose, watery stool and increased frequency of bowel movements. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain or cramping. Depending on the cause of the diarrhea, fever may occur as well.

Before going over how to treat diarrhea, lets first discuss prevention.

There are some steps you can take to prevent traveler's diarrhea. Remember, prevention is your best bet. A bout of diarrhea causes very uncomfortable symptoms, and can interfere with or ruin your trip abroad.

The truth is, most episodes of traveler's diarrhea are "self-limiting," meaning it will run its course in a day or two. All that is needed is to drink plenty of water so you don't become dehydrated.

If diarrhea does not stop in a day or two, or if you're running a fever over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit, you may need to see a doctor. The diarrhea causes may be a bacteria or a parasite, in which case antibiotic medication will probably be prescribed. Understanding the diarrhea causes is important to determining the best way to treat diarrhea and which medications to prescribe.

There are over-the-counter medications for diarrhea that are known as anti-motility agents. These slow the movement of stool through the intestines, allowing more time for water to be absorbed. Most of these are quite effective for traveler's diarrhea.

If you are traveling abroad, consider taking an over-the-counter medication for diarrhea with you. You may have difficulty finding what you need in some countries.

Try Pepto-Bismol or Imodium AD if you want to try over-the-counter medications for your diarrhea. Take one of these as soon as diarrhea starts. It's easiest to treat diarrhea if you catch it early.

Make sure to read the dosage directions on the package and follow them carefully. Don't take more than is recommended, unless your doctor advises you to do so.

Before traveling abroad, talk to your doctor about traveler's diarrhea and how to prevent it. See a doctor if your diarrhea lasts more than a couple of days, if you have a fever, or if your symptoms are very severe, in order to determine the diarrhea causes and to treat diarrhea properly. If you notice blood in your stool, see a doctor right away.

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