Travelers' diarrhea (TD) is a clinical syndrome resulting from microbial contamination of ingested food and water. It occurs during or shortly after travel, most commonly affecting persons traveling from an area of more highly developed hygiene and sanitation infrastructure to a less-developed one.
How to Minimize Chances of Contamination
- Wash hands regularly with soap and water.
- Properly handle food and water.
- Bismuth subsalicylate (BSS), the active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol, taken on arrival at the destination as either two ounces of liquid or two chewable tablets, four times per day, reduces the incidence of TD from 40 percent to 14 percent.
Treatment for Diarrhea
- Avoid solid foods and dairy products until diarrhea has decreased.
- To prevent dehydration, consume adequate quantities of fluids. For infants and children, pharmacies in most developing countries have premixed, sealed packets from the World Health Organization called "Rehydration Salts for Infants." Add one packet to one liter of water.
- We do not recommend taking antibiotics to prevent diarrhea, since you may experience allergic reactions or side effects.
- Do not purchase Vioform® or chloramphenicol at any foreign pharmacy. These drugs can be fatal.
- Follow up with a physician if intermittent or continuous diarrhea continues after your return. Use medications designed for emergency self-treatment of diarrhea.
Use of Medication for Self-Treatment
- Diarrhea and abdominal cramps that are not disabling may be treated with two tablets of Pepto-Bismol, four times a day. Remember that Pepto-Bismol turns your stool and tongue black.
- Diarrhea can also be treated with loperamide (Imodium® AD). Take two tablets after first loose stool, then one tablet after each subsequent stool to a maximum of eight tablets total per 24 hours. Using a prescription antibiotic for diarrhea can often shorten the duration to less than 24 hours.
- Diarrhea characterized by fever or rectal bleeding should be treated with antibiotics. You should also seek the care of a physician.