• Frequently Asked Questions

    Can I die from traveler’s diarrhea?

    Traveler’s diarrhea is generally neither life threatening nor severe. Most bouts of the illness begin within the first week of travel and resolve on its their own within 3-5 days. When treating traveler’s diarrhea, the goal is to prevent dehydration, which can be of special concern for children, pregnant women, those with compromised immune systems, and the elderly.

    If you are at increased risk for any of the reasons above, you should consult your family physician to discuss whether you should take a course of antibiotics with you to take if you have a bout of traveler’s diarrhea.

    Can I take an antimotility drug?

    Antimotility drugs, like Imodium or Lomotil, can reduce the amount of diarrhea you experience. If you decide to use this over-the-counter treatment, you should speak with your physician or pharmacist first. Diarrhea is one way the body rids itself of pathogens (microorganisms that cause disease) from the gastrointestinal tract. Taking these antimotility drugs may mean it takes the body longer to clear the pathogen.

    Bismuth-containing medicines, such as Pepto-Bismol, may help with the diarrhea as bismuth has antibacterial properties.

    Can I use tap water from the hotel to brush my teeth?

    Using tap water to brush your teeth is best avoided as the water may be contaminated. To avoid getting sick, use bottled water when brushing your teeth; this is the best way to protect yourself.

    How can I avoid Traveler’s Diarrhea when traveling abroad?

    Three common ways to contract traveler’s diarrhea are through contaminated water, contaminated food and poor hygiene.

    Water safety can be questionable, so it is important to avoid tap water as much as possible. Only drink boiled or bottled water and avoid ice cubes.

    The food you eat can be contaminated. When traveling, try to select foods that are served hot and are completely cooked, avoid raw meats, eat fruits you can peel, and avoid raw leafy vegetables.

    To avoid infecting yourself, try to clean your hands often, especially before eating. Use soap and water or a hand sanitizer and avoid touching your face and mouth.

    I am travelling to a developing country and am afraid of developing traveller’s diarrhea. What can I do to protect myself?

    People who visit foreign countries are at risk for traveler’s diarrhea, which is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Although there are antibiotic prophylaxis available, they are not recommended in most cases.  While you are travelling, wash your hands with warm, soapy water, drink bottled water and eat food that are served warm and cooked thoroughly.  Try to avoid tap water (including ice), dairy products, raw vegetables, uncooked meats, and seafood.  Foods that are usually safe to drink include hot coffee and tea, beer, wine and carbonated beverages. Fruits and vegetables that can be peeled are generally safe to eat.

    If I get traveler’s diarrhea, how long will it last?

    Most cases of traveler’s diarrhea are mild and typically last 3-5 days. However, some cases can become severe and may result in dehydration, fatigue and a high-grade fever that may require hospitalization.

    When travelling, can I shower in the local water?

    Yes you can, just make sure you don’t swallow any water. {And don’t swallow water when swimming)

    Where am I most likely to get traveler’s diarrhea?

    You can contract traveler’s diarrhea from anywhere in the world, but you are at greater risk of contracting the condition when visiting, Central and South America, Mexico, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Eastern Europe, South Africa and some parts of the Caribbean. The risk of traveler’s diarrhea increases in areas with lower hygiene and sanitation standards and poor food-handling practices.

Enhancing lifelong health

The Canadian Digestive Health Foundation believes our ability to help establish, enrich and protect a healthy gut microbiota is the key to lifelong health