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Traveler's Diarrhea

How Do I Treat Traveler's Diarrhea? continued...

An antidiarrheal medication, such as Lomotil or Imodium, can decrease the number of diarrheal stools but can also cause complications for people with serious infections. These drugs should not be used by anyone with a high fever or blood in their stools.

Antibiotics such as doxycycline, Bactrim, Septra, and Cipro or norfloxacin may shorten the length of illness. The CDC does not recommend the use of antibiotics to prevent traveler's diarrhea, because they can sometimes cause additional problems. Consult your doctor about taking these medications.

It is important for an infected person to consult a doctor about treating diarrhea in children and infants, because some of the drugs mentioned above are not recommended for children. The greatest risk for children, especially infants, is dehydration. Again, the best treatment for dehydration is the ORS solution.

Breastfed infants should continue nursing on demand. For bottle-fed infants, full-strength lactose-free or lactose-reduced formulas should be used. Be sure to mix the formula with boiled water that has cooled. Older children receiving semisolid or solid foods should continue to receive usual foods if they have diarrhea. Immediate medical attention is required if an infant with diarrhea develops signs of moderate to severe dehydration (including dry mouth, eyes, and skin; confusion; sunken eyes; and fever, bloody diarrhea, persistent vomiting, or fever higher than 102 F).

When Should I Call the Doctor About Traveler's Diarrhea?

Seek medical help for traveler's diarrhea if:

  • Diarrhea is severe, bloody, or does not resolve within a few days
  • Diarrhea is accompanied by fever and chills
  • You are unable to keep fluids down to prevent dehydration

How Can I Protect Myself From Traveler's Diarrhea?

In areas with poor sanitation, only the following beverages may be safe to drink: boiled water, hot beverages (such as coffee or tea) made with boiled water, canned or bottled carbonated beverages, beer, and wine. Avoid ice, as it may have been made from contaminated water.

It is safer to drink from an unopened can or bottle than from a container that is not known to be clean and dry. Water on the surface of a beverage can or bottle may also be contaminated. Therefore, the area of a can or bottle that will touch the mouth should be wiped clean and dried. Where water may be contaminated, you should not brush your teeth with tap water.

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