9 Tips to Prevent Travelers' Diarrhea

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: Charles P. Davis, MD, PhD

Travelers' diarrhea strikes up to half of all international travelers. It is far and away the most common travel-related illness, affecting about 10 million people per year worldwide. Infectious agents, particularly bacteria from water contaminated with feces, cause travelers' diarrhea. The most commonly identified bacteria associated with travelers' diarrhea are what are called ETEC, or enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli.

The destination is the most important risk factor for the development of travelers' diarrhea. Developing countries all over the world represent the highest risk, and the highest-risk destinations are the developing countries of Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Certain groups of people are also more likely to develop travelers' diarrhea. At-risk groups include:

People who take H-2 blocker medications or antacids are also at increased risk because a decrease in stomach acidity allows higher survival rates for many infectious agents.

Travelers' diarrhea usually starts with a sudden attack of loose stools that may be watery in consistency. Affected persons usually have four to five similarly loose stools per day. These may be associated with abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and bloating. Fever may or may not be present.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/9/2014