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Vaccines Health Center

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Travel Health - What to Do if You Get Ill

Serious illness

If you become seriously ill while traveling, your country's embassy or consulate can help you find medical care. For a complete list of embassies and consulates, see the U.S. Department of State website at You can also get the contacts for local doctors and medical clinics. If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling, seek medical attention immediately.


Traveler's diarrhea is the most common illness when traveling. Most cases get better within 1 to 3 days without medical treatment.

Most doctors recommend trying to keep to your normal diet as much as possible. If you are vomiting, this may be hard. Try drinking clear liquids. Watch for signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouth and dark-colored urine. If possible, drink rehydration drinks to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Before you go, buy dry packets of oral rehydration mix at a drugstore.

See a doctor if diarrhea doesn't subside or if you have a high fever, blood or mucus in your stools, or signs of dehydration. Watch closely for signs of dehydration in children, because children with diarrhea can quickly become seriously dehydrated.

Your doctor may be able to give you antibiotics to take if you get diarrhea. But some antibiotics can be dangerous if you have bloody diarrhea. Make sure you talk to a doctor before you take antibiotics for bloody diarrhea. And don't take antibiotics to prevent diarrhea.

Antidiarrheal medicines, such as those containing bismuth (examples include Bismatrol and Pepto-Bismol) or Imodium A-D (nonprescription) and Lomotil (prescription), give relief from cramping and frequent stools. But you shouldn't take them if you have a fever or blood or mucus in your stools.

See a doctor right away if you have bloody diarrhea.

To learn more, see the topic Traveler's Diarrhea.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 09, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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