How To Avoid Travelers' Diarrhea

Be Aware Of How You Could Accidentally Come In Contact With Contaminated Water

Water Ripples
Avoiding contaminated water while on vacation is important to avoiding travelers' diarrhea. Photo © Carmen Dirica

Avoiding travelers' diarrhea while traveling is important for anyone. For people who have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), it's critical to take precautions to keep from contracting a virus or bacteria. Diarrhea is already a problem for most people with IBD, and developing travelers' diarrhea could turn into a serious problem that would ruin a vacation.

Some of the tips for avoiding travelers' diarrhea are simple ones, like washing your hands with soap or not eating street food.

Others, like not taking ice in your drinks, will take some more conscious thought. In general, it requires you to be suspect of all tap water or anything that may have been washed in tap water.

Talking to your doctor about what you should do if you experience diarrhea while traveling is something that can also help if there is trouble. Knowing exactly what you should do and having any needed medication on hand could head off a potential disaster and turn it into a bump in the road.

Don't let the idea of potentially getting diarrhea turn you away from traveling. With good preparation, travel can be safe and enjoyable! When traveling to areas where there may not be access to clean water, use these tips to avoid travelers' diarrhea.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: The entire time traveling

Here's How:

  1. Drink only water that has been boiled (as in hot tea or coffee), canned or bottled beverages (make sure you are the person to open the seal), beer, and wine.
  1. Don't brush your teeth with tap water.
  2. Don't use ice made from tap water.
  3. To make water safe for drinking, bring it to a vigorous boil, and then cool. Don't add ice.
  4. Travel with water/produce disinfectants that can be found in sporting goods stores and pharmacies (often available in foreign countries, too, in the produce sections of supermarkets).
  1. Don't eat salads, uncooked fruits and uncooked vegetables.
  2. Avoid unpasteurized milk, shellfish and raw meat.
  3. Well-cooked food that is freshly cooked and still hot is generally safe.
  4. Fruits with peels that you remove yourself are generally safe.
  5. Don't eat food from street vendors.
  6. Check with your doctor or travel medicine specialist about taking bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol or Kaopectate) as a protective measure against travelers' diarrhea, or bringing a limited supply of an antibiotic (such as Ciprofloxacin) to take if needed.


  1. Wash your hands often. Alcohol-based sanitizer is also good to use when soap and water is not available.
  2. Always check dishes and silverware to ensure they are clean.
  3. Symptoms of traveler's diarrhea are urgency, bloating, nausea, and diarrhea. Call your doctor or seek medical help if you experience severe or bloody diarrhea, fever, several abdominal pain, chills, or dehydration.
  4. Anti-diarrheal medication is fine to treat mild traveler's diarrhea. However, in severe cases caused by toxin-producing bacteria, the best way to be rid of the bacteria is to let your body rid yourself of it through the diarrhea. Seek medical attention if you are unsure about taking any anti-diarrheal medication.
  1. Don't take antidiarrheal medicines such as Lomotil or Imodium if you have a fever, bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, or any other severe symptom accompanying the travelers' diarrhea. These drugs can be harmful in some cases. Seek medical attention for treatment.

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