traveler's diarrhea

Imagine yourself on vacation to a far away, serene place with a majestic view. Now, imagine yourself sick on that vacation. Diarrhea! How did it feel? Bad? Disgusted? Maybe it is something you ate or is it the weather.We know the feeling. Such an unpleasant experience can suck the fun out of your holiday. However, all is not lost. You can always be prepared for the worst when you are on vacation. We're here to your rescue and have you all covered. We will cover everything under the ambit of this disease, from "what is it" to "how to prevent and treat it." 

So, let's begin.

What is Traveler's Diarrhea?

traveler's diarrhea

What is it that you understand with this term? First of all, this is a very generic term. It usually refers to diarrhea that you may suffer from while traveling. Secondly, have you ever felt that unusual discomfort in your stomach when traveling on vacation? Traveler's diarrhea, in all likelihood, is what you're going through. Ranging from loose stools and an upset stomach to even gastrointestinal discomfort, commonly known as gas, are all symptoms of a traveler's diarrhea.

traveler's diarrhea

How is Traveler's Diarrhea Transmitted?

We enjoy the local delicacy whenever we travel, right? It is something we all do, and we are guilty as charged! Despite that, we should be wary of what we eat and drink when on vacation. Often, we eat foods we're not habitual to and drink water that is not meant for drinking. Hence, you need to know that the food or water you're consuming may be contaminated and not fit for use.

In addition, traveler's diarrhea may be transmitted through something as menial as touching your hands or nose with contaminated hands. Sometimes, a traveler is careful with their choices and ends up with diarrhea. The food you've consumed might have been tainted at some point. Indeed it may be a loophole in the food industry, but let's not delve into that.Travelers must remember the basic hygiene of washing their hands with soap before and after eating. Carrying a sanitizer has become a thing nowadays, so do remember that. Additionally, do not touch your face with your hands! Travel all you want, but we're sure you wouldn't want to be stuck in a hotel room with your diarrhea!

how is diarrhea transmitted

Diarrhea: An Immediate Effect of Food Poisoning

Food poisoning occurs due to contaminated food and water. A direct result of this is diarrhea. So, you have to be cautious about what you eat. Food poisoning can happen to almost anybody, but it can be especially fatal to children, pregnant women, their fetuses, and people with weakened immune systems. Hence, these people should be extra cautious. To prevent food poisoning, you can follow the below-mentioned steps-

  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Keep surfaces and utensils clean at all times.
  • Segregate raw foods from cooked foods.
  • Check the shelf life and expiry date before consuming anything.
  • Refrigerate any perishable food.
  • Defrost foods before using them.
  • Never keep or consume food that has gone stale.
  • Throw away when in doubt. Do not consume food that you're doubtful about. You aren't wasting food if it has become rancid.

Avoid food poisoning altogether to prevent diarrhea, and this is the best way that there is. Come what may, but this will help you keep diarrhea at bay, which certainly won't ruin your vacation. 

Dysentery and Diarrhea Differences

Do you know what bloody diarrhea is called? Let's move on to that next-

When you notice blood in your stools, diarrhea becomes bloody and is called dysentery. Therefore, dysentery is a more severe form of diarrhea. Although the symptoms of both of these are starkly similar, there are a lot of differences between the two. 

Diarrhea Symptoms

  • Loose, runny stool
  • Nausea
  • The urgency to rush to the washroom
  • Cramps, headaches, and body aches.

Dysentery Symptoms

  • Sudden and uncontrollable urge to rush to the washroom.
  • Loose, runny stool with blood
  • Constantly going to the restroom; more than 5-6 times a day.
  • Muscle cramps
  • Vomiting 
  • High-grade fever

Note: It is hard to differentiate the symptoms. Hence it is essential to know that dysentery is a much more severe form of diarrhea.

Now that you're well aware of your condition let's look at the causes of traveler's diarrhea.

What causes Traveler's Diarrhea?

There can be multiple causes of Diarrhea. The most common ones are mentioned below-

  • Not washing your hands at regular intervals.
  • Not keeping utensils and surfaces clean.
  • Touching your face with dirty hands.
  • Storing food unsafely and later consuming it.
  • Drinking contaminated water, usually from taps.

Apart from these, the most common cause of getting infected with traveler's diarrhea is   infections from

  •  Bacteria-E.coli
  •  Virus- Norovirus, Rotavirus, Astrovirus
  •  Parasites- Giardia, Cyclospora

Individuals at Risk

People who frequently travel, especially to developing or underdeveloped countries, are at a higher risk. These countries are generally in-

  1. Central and South America
  2. Africa
  3. Asia
  4. The middle east

You can catch this disease on streets, using a public washroom, or even in places with unhygienic conditions, including-

  1. Staying at a hotel inclusive of meals;
  2. Going out to eat somewhere with unsatisfactory hygienic conditions;
  3. Buying unpackaged food from outside;
  4. Drinking water from an unsealed bottle

individuals at risk of traveler's diarrhea

You can be at an increased risk-

  1. If you take any medications for ulcers;
  2. If you've ever had any gastrointestinal surgery

Preventing Traveler's Diarrhea

The top ways for you to prevent traveler's diarrhea are the following-

  • Pay heed to what you eat. You must consider your eating habits while traveling and at home. We tend to indulge in foods that might not be healthy or good for us. Yet, we eat them and fall sick. Eat foods that are served hot and cooked well. Avoid buying foods that have been out in the open for god knows how long! 
  • Whenever you travel, make sure to keep your mouth closed while showering. The water may be contaminated with harmful bacteria or viruses. 
  • Drink only bottled water, not tap water, no matter how thirsty you are.
  • Do not trust self-prescribed medicines. Nowadays, there are a few antibiotic-resistant bacteria. So, it will be a futile effort for you.
  • Drink plenty of water. If you see an initial symptom, breathe and drink lots and lots of fluids. Fluids will help prevent dehydration and control the symptoms and the disease.
  • Do not use ice when going out. If you like to drink alcohol on trips, make sure not to add ice to your drink. Have a cold beverage instead.
  • Avoid drinking from the glass or cup directly. Instead, use a straw.

wash your hands to prevent diarrhea

Treatment for Traveler's Diarrhea

Let's say you've already become a target for traveler's diarrhea. Needn't worry; we're here to help you every step of the way. Follow these to treat your traveler's diarrhea and get back in shape in no time!

  • Pepto Bismol is your friend in need during these perilous times. Indeed, it will prevent the symptoms from worsening and might even put a full stop to diarrhea. But make sure to consume it in the right amount; taking more than needed can lead to constipation. You don't want either of these.
  • Take other over-the-counter medications. For example, loperamide. It will help you to control your need to go to the restroom every now and then and will make it easier for you to travel by bus or airplane.
  • Antibiotics. Certain bacteria and parasites require you to take antibiotics. Your doctor can prescribe these. For instance, you can take Ciprofloxacin and Levofloxacin.
  • Ayurveda. You can even use a few ayurvedic products to boost your immunity in case you travel a lot. Not only will it increase your immune system, but it will even prevent you from traveler's diarrhea and other diseases.
  • Another helpful way is to be on a strict diet, which includes bland and less fibrous food. Home-made tea will also give you instant relief.


Traveler's diarrhea usually affects people within 10 days of their travel. Also, it is one of the most common illnesses among travelers. Although it goes away in a few days, it is crucial that you keep in mind if your symptoms go haywire.

Firstly, you must eat and drink cleanly. Dehydration is an immediate effect of diarrhea. Hence it is essential to keep filling your body with fluids. Secondly, the best way known to humankind is prevention. So, try to prevent it as much as possible; if this doesn't work, there's always medical science to help you. Finally, you should always follow your doctor’s instructions, especially when traveling. You never know what's coming your way. Indeed, you wouldn't want it to be dreadful diarrhea!

Even the slightest bit of negligence can cost you your dear life. And we're sure that this isn't what any of you want. So, travel as much as you want and can, but with caution. Be aware of your health needs. A healthy body and mind will help you become the best version of yourself.


Zandu Ayurvedic Team

Zandu Ayurvedic Team has a panel of over 10 BAMS (Ayurvedacharya), boasting a collective experience of over 50 years. With a deep-rooted understanding of Ayurveda, they are committed to sharing their expertise & knowledge through our blogs.
We use all kinds of Ayurvedic references in our content. Please use the contact form for any editorial queries.

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