Traveler’s Diarrhea

By | June 8, 2022

It is not a pleasant thought: the flight to the destination is over, the suitcases are unpacked. Suddenly severe traveler’s diarrhea or traveler’s diarrhea begins. What should I do? And should I be worried?

What is traveler’s diarrhea?

Traveler’s diarrhea – also known as traveler’s diarrhea in professional circles – refers to an infection of the intestine. This is the most common travel sickness. For meanings of hunter glossitis, please visit

Traveler’s diarrhea becomes noticeable within a few hours to days after arrival in a foreign country. In addition to nausea and vomiting, traveler’s diarrhea manifests itself in at least four stools per day, the consistency of which is deformed to watery.

Occasionally, travelers’ diarrhea can also show blood in the stool. In severe cases, fever or gastrointestinal cramps are added. Sometimes travelers’ diarrhea can only appear a few days after returning home from the holiday destination.


With traveler’s diarrhea, the intestinal flora of those affected is out of balance. Viruses or bacteria are to blame, the best known being salmonella, coliform bacteria or norovirus. The germs can be ingested through food.

Raw foods (fruit, salad, meat, fish) or contaminated drinking water play a major role in traveler’s diarrhea. Poor hygiene conditions in foreign countries can also be the cause of traveler’s diarrhea. Problems with the time change and climate change do the rest.

Even stress, for example due to hectic travel preparations, can contribute to the development of traveler’s diarrhea. Traveler’s diarrhea is most likely to occur in countries with low hygiene standards (eg India). Traveling in groups or backpackers also suffer from the typical traveller’s diarrhea more quickly.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Traveler’s diarrhea is characterized by thin, watery stools that are passed several times a day. Traveler’s diarrhea is often accompanied by cramps during defecation. The diarrhea can be foul-smelling and contain undigested food components, as unfamiliar, intolerable food is often the cause of diarrhea on vacation. Germs can also be a reason for traveller’s diarrhea and cause those affected to suffer from abdominal pain, nausea and general discomfort.

Fever can also occur as an accompanying symptom. Symptoms such as abdominal pain can be present hours before the actual diarrhea begins. The symptoms often subside as soon as the diarrhea has left the body. It is also possible that the symptoms last for days.

In this case, there are often signs of incipient dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration can include headaches, dizziness and general poor circulation. Symptoms of travelers’ diarrhea can vary in intensity.

Slight malaise is just as possible as a severe feeling of illness due to the severe loss of water and the onset of problems with the electrolyte balance. While the symptoms of diarrhea proper, watery stools, are very easy to spot, the signs of associated dehydration in children or the elderly may not always be obvious.

Diagnosis & History

The diagnosis of traveller’s diarrhea can be made if the typical watery diarrhea occurs shortly after the start of the journey. There are two different courses of traveler’s diarrhea: acute and chronic traveler’s diarrhea.

Almost all patients develop acute traveler’s diarrhea. Traveller’s diarrhea is usually over after a few days to a week. However, if the symptoms persist or worsen, a doctor must be consulted.

Some sufferers suffer from such severe diarrhea that a hospital stay is necessary. Every fifth affected person becomes bedridden during this time. However, most suffer only mildly from traveler’s diarrhea. In around ten percent of patients, acute traveler’s diarrhea turns into chronic traveler’s diarrhea. This means that the diarrhea can persist for up to four weeks.


Traveler’s diarrhea can cause various complications. First there is the risk of dehydration, which is associated with physical and mental deficits and can be fatal in children, the elderly and the sick. In the case of acute diarrhea, there is also a pronounced loss of nutrients, which is also associated with deficiency symptoms.

In extreme cases, both dehydration and nutrient deficiencies can lead to kidney failure and subsequent death. The uncertain hygiene situation at the travel destination can mean that the symptoms persist for several days – all the more dangerous is the loss of fluids. In most cases, however, travelers’ diarrhea is less of a problem. The affected person only suffers from a strong feeling of discomfort and the typical feeling of illness.

Treating travelers’ diarrhea also carries risks. Over-the-counter diarrhea medications such as racecadotril can occasionally cause side effects such as skin rashes, headaches and body aches. Severe skin reactions, swelling, hives or edema rarely occur. If an infusion is necessary, it can lead to inflammation and injuries in the area of ​​the puncture site. Occasionally, the area around the puncture becomes swollen and symptoms such as itching and pain occur. Blood clots and other serious complications rarely occur.

When should you go to the doctor?

Travelers’ diarrhea does not usually require a doctor’s consultation. The symptoms are based on an inner stress experience and are of a temporary nature. They usually last for a few hours or days. Spontaneous healing then occurs. The food supply must be changed so that the general state of health does not deteriorate further. In addition, a sufficient amount of liquid must be consumed so that a life-threatening situation does not develop.

If the self-help measures do not work, a doctor should be consulted. If there is blood in the stool, a disturbance of consciousness or a feeling of inner dryness, there is a state of alert. A doctor’s visit is necessary so that medical care can be initiated. If dehydration or loss of consciousness occurs, an emergency service must be alerted. The victim is in a life-threatening condition and needs a doctor as soon as possible.

If the trip has to be canceled or interrupted due to the symptoms, a doctor’s visit is necessary. An increase in irregularities, inner weakness and complete lack of strength must be examined. Circulatory problems or loss of control over the sphincter must be checked out by a doctor.

Anyone who regularly suffers from traveler’s diarrhea should consult a doctor or therapist in good time before starting a trip. There are several preventative options that can be used.

Treatment & Therapy

If the first symptoms of traveller’s diarrhea appear, those affected should drink a lot. Tea and packaged drinking water are best for this. Traveller’s diarrhea can also be treated with medication from the pharmacy. They contain vital electrolytes that the body has eliminated through the diarrhea.

If there are no electrolytes to buy locally, you can easily make a solution yourself. Boil a liter of water and add five tablespoons of sugar, one or two tablespoons of salt and a glass of orange juice. Otherwise, no special diet needs to be followed for traveler’s diarrhea.

Nevertheless, it makes sense to avoid heavy and greasy foods. In the case of severe fluid loss, only admission to the hospital will help. Persistent travelers’ diarrhea can also be life-threatening for children, the elderly and the weak. If traveler’s diarrhea is accompanied by fever, bloody stools or gastrointestinal cramps, a doctor must be consulted as soon as possible.

In such cases, the blood should be examined to see if it really is just the suspected traveler’s diarrhea. Cholera or typhoid would also be conceivable, which would then have to be treated separately.


Travelers ‘ diarrhea most commonly affects travelers to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. For this reason, it makes sense to think about suitable diarrhea medication before you leave. There is no preventive vaccination against traveler’s diarrhea. Drinking water should always be boiled. Please only enjoy all food that has been cooked through.

Fresh lettuce and raw vegetables should be taboo. Be careful with fruit too. In order to avoid travelers’ diarrhea, fruits should either be washed sufficiently or peeled. Use only bottled drinking water when brushing your teeth. Of course, to protect against traveler’s diarrhea, hands should be washed regularly.


Travelers’ diarrhea that occurs due to food intolerance in unfamiliar surroundings does not require any special follow-up care. This also applies to diarrhea that has occurred, for example, due to unclean water in the holiday region. Unless the person concerned is particularly weak, short-term traveler’s diarrhea is usually well tolerated by the body and can be brought to a standstill by self-help.

If the diarrhea stops quickly and there is no particular physical weakness or pain, special aftercare measures are not required. However, follow-up care may be necessary if the traveler’s diarrhea was very severe and lasted a long time. There is a risk of dehydration, especially in children and the elderly. This should also be examined by a doctor during the act phase of the traveler’s diarrhea.

When the diarrhea is over, the aftercare serves to check whether there is enough fluid in the body again and whether all blood values ​​have normalized. In the case of extreme diarrhea, this follow-up care is important in order to be able to identify organ damage at an early stage and, if necessary, treat it immediately. If the doctor finds that the fluid balance is still not in order and there is a risk of damage, he can prescribe infusions or arrange for further internal examinations.

You can do that yourself

Traveler’s diarrhea is an annoying phenomenon that is common but both preventable and treatable with self-care.

Prevention of travelers’ diarrhea is extremely important. The rule here is that food should be cooked or peeled if possible, but at least washed down with hygienically safe water. If necessary, take the bottle of water with you on discoveries in countries where drinking water does not meet the standards of modern medicine. Fruit and vegetables must be cleaned with particular care. In southern countries, special attention should also be paid to ice cubes in drinks, as these are often not produced hygienically and thus even bottled drinks can become a source of germs for traveler’s diarrhea. Always wash hands before touching mouth or eating food with fingers.

If the traveler’s diarrhea has set in, there are also means of self-help. The diarrhea usually goes away on its own after a day or two, once the germs have been flushed out of the intestines. Until then, fluid that is lost from the body must be replenished with still water of impeccable origin or herbal teas. Charcoal tablets can relieve acute diarrhea. Flea seed shells are also a side-effect-free option for lasting relief from diarrhea while travelling. Flatulent, fatty and spicy foods are better to be avoided during the period of traveler’s diarrhea.

Traveler’s Diarrhea