Travellers’ Diarrhea – On the Run

Fortunately, travellers’ diarrhea usually isn't serious — it's just unpleasant. Unfortunately, it can ruin a day or 2 of your vacation. Learn how you get it, how to prevent it and what to do if you have it.

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Worried about travellers’ diarrhea?

You’re not alone, it’s the most common illness among travellers. Travellers’ diarrhea can be caused by many different bacteria, parasites and viruses. The most common cause is bacteria called E.coli. Most cases begin suddenly after eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
If you have travellers’ diarrhea symptoms may include:
  • Loose watery stools
  • Urgent need to have a bowel movement
  • Explosive and painful gas
  • Cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloating
  • Feeling generally unwell (weakness or discomfort)

Is travellers’ diarrhea serious?

Not usually. It usually lasts from 3 to 5 days and resolves on its own and rarely becomes life threatening.
  • Severe cases, of travellers’ diarrhea can lead to dehydration and can be a serious concern for children, the elderly and people with chronic diseases or weakened immune systems.
N.B. If you have blood in your stool, you should seek medical attention, even if your other symptoms are not very severe.

What you can do

Keep hydrated!
  • Drink lots of fluids, particularly oral rehydration solutions. You should bring these with you on your trip
  • Be sure to always use safe water (boiled, disinfected or from a commercially sealed bottle) for drinking or mixing your oral hydration solutions
Talk to your doctor.
  • In some cases, anti-diarrhea medication may help lower how often and urgently you need to use the washroom
  • It is important to follow the label instructions of any medication you take as well as the advice of your doctor or the Pharmacist at Walmart
N.B. If you have bloody diarrhea or a fever, anti-diarrhea medication should not be used.
Your doctor may choose to prescribe antibiotics to treat moderate to severe diarrhea.

Where is travellers’ diarrhea a concern?

While you can get travellers’ diarrhea anywhere, there are destinations that pose higher risks than others.
  • Low risk destinations include Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand Northern and Western Europe and the United States
  • Moderate risk destinations include parts of the Caribbean and Eastern Europe
  • High risk destinations include places in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Mexico, and the Middle East


1. Talk to your doctor about prevention and treatment options before you travel
2. Use food and water safety precautions
3. Wash your hands frequently and ALWAYS before eating
  • Wash your hands with soap under warm running water for at least 20 seconds, as often as possible
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. It’s a good idea to always keep some with you when you travel
4. Be sure to pack oral rehydration solutions. The Pharmacist at Walmart can recommend one for you

More precautions

When it comes to food
  • Boil it, cook it, peel it or leave it!
  • Only eat foods that are well cooked and served hot. Avoid food served at room temperature
  • Avoid raw or undercooked (rare) meats and fish, including shellfish
  • Only eat fruits and vegetables if you have washed them in safe water or peeled them yourself
  • Avoid salads or other items that are made with fresh produce
  • Avoid food from street vendors

Swimming in untreated freshwater or saltwater can be a risk. Avoid ingesting any water while swimming, wading, or participating in other activities. Never swim when you have open cuts, abrasions, or other wounds.

Seek medical attention

If you or anyone you are travelling with have
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • High fever
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Profuse sweating
  • Signs of dehydration
    • Dry, sticky mouth
    • Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual
    • Thirst
    • Sunken eyes
    • Little or no urination
    • No wet diapers for three hours or more in infants
    • Few or no tears when crying
    • Dry skin that doesn’t bounce back when pinched
    • Headache
    • Dizziness or light-headedness


Important information

The Pharmacist at Walmart has plenty of information about travellers’ diarrhea. If you have concerns, Just ask!

This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances. If you have questions about your symptoms, ask the Pharmacist at Walmart for more information, and/or contact your doctor.

The pharmacist at Walmart does not endorse or recommend any sponsor or their products or services.
Any representation, performance claim, warranty or guarantee in any materials herein is the sole responsibility of the sponsor that has prepared such materials and is not independently verified by Walmart.

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This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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