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.
Avoid drinking local water where you are traveling. Beverages that are usually safe to drink include:
- Tea and coffee if made with boiled water.
- Carbonated bottled water or soda pop.
- Bottled 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 infection.
Avoid eating food from street vendors where flies can transmit bacteria and poor hygiene practices are more likely to contaminate foods. If you purchase food at an outdoor market, make sure you boil it, cook it thoroughly, or peel it before you eat it.
Good hand-washing is important in preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Washing with treated water or using alcohol wipes or antibacterial gels to disinfect your hands are good ways to reduce your risk of getting an infectious disease.
Talk with your doctor about antibiotics you can carry with you on your trip and instructions on when to use them just in case you should develop diarrhea.
Other information sources
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains current information on infectious diseases around the world. Local health departments can access this information to help you determine what prevention measures-such as vaccines, antimalarial medicine, or supplies to treat water-are appropriate for the area of the world you are traveling to. The CDC also offers a Traveler's Health Hotline at (404) 332-4559. The CDC website (wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx) also updates information for travelers.
Resources for medical care in a foreign country include embassies or consulates and major hotels. For English-speaking travelers, multinational corporations or credit card companies also may have referrals for local medical care in the foreign country.