Traveler's Diarrhea: Causes and Symptoms

Traveler’s Diarrhea is a form of diarrhea mainly experienced by people from the temperate region traveling the other parts of the world. Around 20% to 50% travelers might face traveler’s diarrhea. It is also known by funny names like Montezuma’s Revenge; Turista; Hong Kong Dog; Aztec Two Step and Delhi Belly. The areas which are at a higher risk of giving traveler’s diarrhea are Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.

Causes of Traveler’s Diarrhea

The main causes of traveler’s diarrhea are contaminated food and drinks. The reasons for traveler’s diarrhea are bacteria, virus and protozoa. The high-risk food and drinks are:

  • undercooked and raw meat
  • uncooked leafy vegetables
  • un-peeled fruits
  • seafood
  • dietary products (unpasteurized)
  • tap water
  • ice cubes


Mother nature has provided human body with an ability to fight disease causing agents. Water is the most important element for survival. Humans take in 2 to 3 liters of water everyday. When the body is used to an environment, it has resistance to the germs in the water. During the change of place the body tries to adjust to the surroundings as it faces different air, water and food. Body has protective antibodies in blood which are primary infection-fighting agents. Their function is to attack the germs in water that cause diarrhea. When these antibodies lack or do not act, the person has reaction in his body and generally it is diarrhea.

About 20 to 50% of travelers develop diarrhea. Travel can be within country or across the countries. Travelers who come from industrialized nations are at higher risk of developing diarrhea than compared to developing or less industrialized countries.

Humorous terms are used to describe this diarrhea. Some of them are “Turista” in Mexico, “Hong Kong Dog” in the Far East and “Delhi Belly” in India.

Symptoms of Traveler’s Diarrhea

The symptoms of the disease usually occur in 2 to 3 days after arriving in a foreign country. The common signs of traveler’s diarrhea are:

  • watery or loose stools
  • abdominal cramps
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • bloating
  • urgency in bowel movements
  • headache
  • fever
  • blood in the stools
  • pain during passing the stools

Treatment for Traveler’s Diarrhea

Medication: The mild cases might require some non-prescription medication like bismuth subsalicylate and loperamide along with antibiotics.

Water: Drinking lots of water can prevent dehydration. Hot tea, bottled fruit juices and broth are recommended.

Food: Try to eat bland food for at least next 24 hours. Rice, bread, soup and cereals are suggested.

How to avoid traveler’s diarrhea:

After knowing about travelers diarrhea one may ask how to avoid it. Here are some suggestions that you can keep in mind before traveling :

  • Be very careful while drinking water. Do not rush and drink all the water you get. Be conservative and think whether the water is safe for your body.
  • Drink only “Sterilized water,” i.e., boiled and cooled water.
  • Be careful while using water to clean your teeth or gargle. Use drinking water to clean your teeth and mouth. Avoid tap water.
  • Do not drink water from water bottles if you find the seal broken.
  • Do not use ice unless you are sure that it is made of pure mineral water.
  • See that you take pasteurized milk or dairy products.
  • Eating raw vegetables and fruits can be harmful. Wash them thoroughly. Cook vegetables and then eat. Eat fruits but only after washing and peeling them.
  • As far as possible avoid eating leafy raw vegetables in the new place. They carry water of the place and may harm your belly.
  • While eating non-vegetarian foods see that meat is cooked properly. Be conservative while having fish in your food.
  • Avoid foods that are sold on the streets. After all you do not know how they are cooked!


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