Traveler's Diarrhea Prevention Tips
Contaminated food and drink are the major sources of stomach or intestinal illness while traveling. Intestinal problems due to poor sanitation are found in far greater numbers outside the United States and other industrialized nations. Read these tips on how to avoid suffering this condition.
Treatment of Water
Chemical disinfection can be achieved with either iodine or chlorine, with iodine providing greater disinfection in a wider set of circumstances. For disinfection with iodine, use either tincture of iodine or tetraglycine hydroperiodide tablets, such as Globaline®* and Potable-Aqua®*. These disinfectants can be found in sporting goods stores and pharmacies. Read and follow the manufacturer's instructions. If the water is cloudy, then strain it through a clean cloth and double the number of disinfectant tablets added. If the water is very cold, either warm it or allow increased time for disinfectant to work.
The CDC makes no recommendation as to the use of any of the portable filters on the market due to lack of independently verified results of their efficacy.
As a last resort, water that is uncomfortably hot to touch may be safe for drinking and brushing teeth after it is allowed to cool. However, many disease-causing organisms can survive the usual temperature reached by the hot water in overseas hotels.
Infants younger than 6 months should either be breast-fed or be given powdered commercial formula prepared with boiled water.
Some fish are not guaranteed to be safe even when cooked because of the presence of toxins in their flesh. Tropical reef fish, red snapper, amber jack, grouper, and sea bass can occasionally be toxic at unpredictable times if they are caught on tropical reefs rather than in open ocean. The barracuda and puffer fish are often toxic, and should generally not be eaten. Highest risk areas include the islands of the West Indies, and the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans.
The best way to prevent TD is by paying meticulous attention to choice of food and beverage. CDC does not recommend use of antibiotics to prevent TD because they can cause additional problems.
Last Editorial Review: 4/12/2002