Traveler’s diarrhea is a problem that mainly affects people who travel to developing countries. Diarrhea-causing bacteria live in the water in many developing countries. Visitors often experience diarrhea when they drink tap water, use ice cubes, or eat fruits and vegetables washed in tap water. Less common causes of traveler’s diarrhea are jet lag, altitude changes, medicines, or changes in diet and eating pattern.
Symptoms are three or more loose stools in 24 hours. More severe cases will have blood in the stool, vomiting, cramps, fever, or nausea. The diarrhea usually lasts 3 to 4 days. It is not life-threatening except for infants, who may become dehydrated.
A doctor may prescribe medicine to kill the bacteria or to relieve symptoms. The most important part of treatment is to drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration. Travelers can drink bottled water, fruit juice, or caffeine-free soda (caffeine can worsen diarrhea). If dehydration does occur, the person must drink a special rehydration solution that contains the right mix of sodium, potassium, chloride, sugar, and water.