What you need to know about traveler’s diarrhea

Every year, millions of international travelers fall victim to what’s often referred to a “traveler’s diarrhea.” Usually, traveler’s diarrhea comes on swiftly and without warning. Symptoms include cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and fever. The most frequent cause is food or water contaminated with fecal bacteria.

Chances of getting traveler’s diarrhea are greater in Mexico, Africa, South America and Asia than in the UK, Western Europe, and Japan. Although unpleasant, traveler’s diarrhea usually isn’t dangerous and most often passes within a few days. But for certain people, such as children or those with diabetes, it can be dangerous and require medical attention.


Steps to reducing risk

Especially in high-risk countries, it’s important to choose food and beverages carefully. Eat only foods that are well-cooked, and skip the buffet. Avoid street food completely as well as all unpasteurized dairy products, salads, and fruit you can’t peel.

Use factory bottled-water, even for brushing your teeth, and keep your mouth closed in the shower. Skip fruit juices, which may be mixed with local water, as well as ice. And, as always, it’s important to wash your hands often, especially before meals. The second-best option is to use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol.

When to seek medical help

  1. Get medical help right away for any of these symptoms:
    • Severe dehydration
    • Persistent vomiting
    • Bloody stools
    • A high fever
    • Symptoms that last more than a few days
  2. Because diarrhea in children can be more dangerous, seek medical care if a child has:
    • Persistent vomiting
    • Bloody stools
    • A fever over 102° F
    • Excessive sleepiness
    • Decreased urine
  3. If you have SafeTrip Travel Protection from UnitedHealthcare Global, call the 24/7 Emergency Response Center at the number on you ID card. We’ll help you find appropriate treatment in your location.


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