Nonprescription medicines may help treat diarrhea. Use nonprescription
antidiarrheal medicine if you do not have other signs of illness, such as
fever, abdominal cramping or discomfort, or bloody stools. If you have fever,
bloody stools, or vomiting, antibiotics may be needed.
subsalicylate, or BSS (such as Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate), has been shown to
be effective in preventing and treating traveler's diarrhea. Bismuth
subsalicylates may reduce the effectiveness of medicines taken to prevent
malaria, should not be used for more than 3 weeks, and should not be taken by
those who can't take aspirin. They may cause you to have a black tongue or
black stools. The black color is usually not serious. Brushing your teeth and
tongue after taking a BSS may keep your tongue from turning black. If your
child or teen gets
flu, do not treat the symptoms with over-the-counter
medicines that contain bismuth subsalicylate or aspirin (such as Pepto-Bismol,
Kaopectate, or Alka-Seltzer). If your child has taken this kind of medicine and
he or she has changes in behavior with nausea and vomiting, call your doctor.
These symptoms could be an early sign of
Reye syndrome, a rare but serious illness.
Nonprescription medicines to slow diarrhea, such as loperamide (for
example, Imodium), may be used to treat diarrhea but should not be used to
prevent traveler's diarrhea because they can cause constipation.
If you have a high-risk medical condition such as diabetes or cancer, you
take prescription medicines that cause diarrhea, or you are traveling with a
child 11 years old or younger, seek advice from your health professional to
determine what medicines you may want to take on your trip. Be aware that
dehydration caused by diarrhea may alter the effectiveness of any medicines you
are taking for other medical conditions.
Can I prevent traveler's diarrhea?
The best way to
prevent traveler's diarrhea is to avoid food or water that may be contaminated.
A good rule of thumb for food safety is, "If it's not boiled, well-cooked, or peeled, don't eat it." Raw seafood and milk products
usually are high-risk foods for bacterial contamination. Dry foods, such as
breads, or fruits that you can peel are safe to eat.
drinking local water where you are traveling. Beverages that are usually safe
to drink include:
- Tea and coffee if made with boiled
- Carbonated bottled water or soda pop.
beer and wine.
Water also can be filtered or treated with iodine to make
it safe to drink.
Also, be aware that contaminated water may be
used to wash fruits and vegetables, clean utensils and plates, and make ice
cubes. Brushing your teeth with untreated water also may increase your risk of