How To Prevent Travelers' Diarrhea

Food and Drink Safety Precautions

family in airport with suitcases
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The need to prevent traveler's diarrhea has become increasingly imperative as our society has become more global. Whether traveling for business or pleasure, the last thing you want is to find yourself dealing with urgent diarrhea, accompanied by vomiting, abdominal pain, and/or fever. Since the cause of travelers' diarrhea is ingesting food and water that has been contaminated by unfriendly microorganisms, it is essential that you observe a heightened sense of vigilance as to the safety of your food and drink choices throughout your entire trip.

Here are some "dos and don'ts" to help keep yourself safe.

Food Precautions

When eating in a foreign country, there are often few guarantees that your food is being prepared in a safe and healthy manner. What can one do? Your safest course of action is to follow these simple rules:

  • Don't eat raw fruits or vegetables.
  • Don't eat raw fish or meat or meat that is served rare.
  • Don't eat foods sold by street vendors, as their equipment rarely is adequate to keep foods hot enough for safety.
  • Don't eat cold salads, such as fruit or chicken salad, as you have no way of knowing if the food was prepared safely.
  • Don't eat unpasteurized dairy products.
  • Don't eat foods served in buffets, as steam tables may not be hot enough to keep bacteria from multiplying.
  • Don't forget that condiments, such as salsas, may not be safe.

At this point, you may be wondering: Is there anything left? Of course, there is! Just be sure to do the following:

  • Do enjoy foods that are served hot.
  • Do eat meats that are well-cooked.
  • Do choose dry foods and condiments that are pre-packaged.
  • Do feel free to eat fruits and vegetables that have peels, as long as you thoroughly wash and peel the items yourself.

Drink Precautions

As they say, water is the basis of life.

It can also be your downfall if you are not cautious about what you drink when you are traveling. Here are some guidelines:

  • Don't drink tap water.
  • Don't brush your teeth with tap water.
  • Don't choose drinks that contain ice, unless you know that the ice is made with purified or boiled water.
  • Don't think that alcohol in a drink makes it safe. Alcohol does not kill the microorganisms that cause travelers' diarrhea.
  • Don't drink bottled water if the seal has been broken.

Lest you think you will die of dehydration, here are some safe choices for drinks.

  • Do choose drinks that are served hot, such as coffee and tea.
  • Do drink carbonated beverages, but only if you hear the hiss when you open the bottle.
  • Do drink milk that you are sure has been pasteurized.


National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) "Diarrhea".

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