Overview Of Traveler’s Diarrhea
Diarrhea is loose, watery stools (bowel movements). You have diarrhea if you have loose stools three or more times in one day. Acute diarrhea is diarrhea that lasts a short time. It is a common problem. It usually lasts about one or two days, but it may last longer. Then it goes away on its own. Traveler’s diarrhea is caused by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. It is unpleasant, but not usually serious.
Diarrhea lasting more than a few days may be a sign of a more serious problem. Chronic diarrhea — diarrhea that lasts at least four weeks — can be a symptom of a chronic disease. Chronic diarrhea symptoms may be continual, or they may come and go.
Causes Of Traveler’s Diarrhea
The most common causes of diarrhea include:
- Bacteria from contaminated food or water
- Viruses such as the flu, norovirus, or rotavirus. Rotavirus is the most common cause of acute diarrhea in children.
- Parasites, which are tiny organisms found in contaminated food or water
- Medicines such as antibiotics, cancer drugs, and antacids that contain magnesium
- Food intolerances and sensitivities, which are problems digesting certain ingredients or foods. An example is lactose intolerance.
- Diseases that affect the stomach, small intestine, or colon, such as Crohn’s disease
- Problems with how the colon functions, such as irritable bowel syndrome
- Some people also get diarrhea after stomach surgery, because sometimes the surgeries can cause food to move through your digestive system more quickly.
Sometimes no cause can be found. If your diarrhea goes away within a few days, finding the cause is usually not necessary.
Other possible symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea include
- Cramps or pain in the abdomen
- An urgent need to use the bathroom
- Loss of bowel control
- If a virus or bacteria is the cause of your diarrhea, you may also have a fever, chills, and bloody stools.
Diarrhea can cause dehydration, which means that your body does not have enough fluid to work properly. Dehydration can be serious, especially for children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.
Exams & Tests
To find the cause of traveler’s diarrhea, your health care provider may
- Do a physical exam
- Ask about any medicines you are taking
- Test your stool or blood to look for bacteria, parasites, or other signs of disease or infection
- Ask you to stop eating certain foods to see whether your diarrhea goes away
- If you have chronic diarrhea, your health care provider may perform other tests to look for signs of disease.
Treatment Of Traveler’s Diarrhea
Diarrhea is treated by replacing lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration. Depending on the cause of the problem, you may need medicines to stop the diarrhea or treat an infection.
Adults with traveler’s diarrhea should drink water, fruit juices, sports drinks, sodas without caffeine, and salty broths. As your symptoms improve, you can eat soft, bland food.
Children with diarrhea should be given oral rehydration solutions to replace lost fluids and electrolytes.