Travel Hazards

Travelers’ Diarrhea

How to Avoid It

Travelersone of the most common travel-related illnesses among international travelers, especially when visiting resource-poor regions of the world. Infection typically occurs when ingesting food or drink contaminated with diarrhea-causing bacteria, viruses or parasites. Unfortunately, even in five-star establishments, food handlers who do not wash their hands can transmit infections to you. The following tips may help you avoid this problem:

  • Drink bottled water or water you know has been brought to a boil.
  • Drink beverages containing only boiled or bottled water (e.g., coffee, tea).
  • Drink beverages from a sealed can or bottle (e.g., carbonated drinks). Be aware that refilling bottles with tap water is a common practice worldwide.
  • Drink beverages without ice.
  • Do not brush your teeth with tap water.
  • Do not drink fresh-squeezed juices or consume unpasteurized dairy products.
  • Do not eat raw vegetables, salads or salsas. Thin-skinned fruit should be avoided, but thick skinned fruits you can wash and peel yourself are generally safe.
  • When traveling to areas where bottled or boiled water is not readily available, water purification tablets or devices can be important to bring.
  • Do not consume raw or undercooked meat, fish or shellfish or unpasteurized dairy products.
  • Do not eat food sold by street vendors. While freshly cooked foods that are steaming hot are safer, food handling and utensils might be unhygienic in street-side establishments.
  • Do not eat room-temperature sauces.
  • Avoid foods sitting for long periods of time (i.e., hot food should be hot; cold food should be cold).
  • Alcoholic beverages are generally safe, but adding alcohol to other beverages does not sterilize them. And beware of the ice cubes!
  • Adults who are not allergic to aspirin and are not taking aspirin-containing drugs may consider taking Pepto-Bismolas directed for prevention of diarrhea during short-term trips.