How to Avoid Food Poisoning and Traveler’s Diarrhea

Benedette Cuffari, Scientific Writer & Researcher at shared with Healthy Lombard that every year, millions of people that live in developed countries like the United States will travel to developing countries that may not have the same hygiene standards that you are accustomed to.

During their travels, up to 50% of people will at some point suffer from at least one bout of diarrhea, which is otherwise referred to as traveler’s diarrhea. While traveler’s diarrhea can be mild and pass quickly, it can also be extremely debilitating for people affected by this condition.

While traveler’s diarrhea and food poisoning are not completely avoidable, there are several ways in which you can stay informed on the origin and mechanisms of these conditions, as well as any precautions you can take that might protect you in the future.

What is Traveler’s Diarrhea?

Traveler’s diarrhea is one of the most common medical conditions that will occur to international travelers every year. By definition, traveler’s diarrhea must first be characterized as either mild, moderate or classical in nature.

  • Mild Diarrhea 
    • 1-2 loose stools each day
    • No other gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms present
  • Moderate Diarrhea
    • 1-2 loose stools each day with at least 1 other GI symptom is present
    • Can also involve at least 3 loose stools each day without the presence of other GI symptoms
  • Classical Diarrhea
    • Three or more loose stools each day
    • Accompanied by at least 1 other GI symptom
  • Possible GI Symptoms to Accompany Traveler’s Diarrhea:
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Abdominal pains
    • Cramps
    • Fever
    • Blood in the stool (melena) 1


Who is at Risk?


Today it is easier than ever before for people to travel to almost any country in the world. In fact, it is estimated that every year almost 80 million travelers from industrialized countries will travel to tropical countries 1.

While improvements in aviation technology have allowed for people to experience new cultures and help less fortunate communities in poorer countries, it has also led international travelers to often be at high risk for travelers’ diarrhea. The vulnerability of international travelers to this condition is a result of their immune system’s inexperience with the infections that exist in foreign countries.

As a result of the likelihood of traveler’s diarrhea, it is extremely important for travelers to consider the following questions prior to their takeoff:

1. What is your country of origin?

If the traveler is from a highly industrialized country, like the United States or England, there is a much higher chance that, when staying in a developing country, the traveler will get traveler’s diarrhea.

 2. What are the hygienic conditions of the country you will be visiting?

Some of the most important factors that travelers must consider before traveling to developing countries, particularly those located in Africa, Central and South America, as well as South, Central, and West Asia, include:

  • Availability of appropriate medical care
  • Safety and purity of antibiotics in the destination country
  • Hygienic conditions of where you will be staying

 3. How long will you be visiting the country?

  • Various studies have compared how the traveler’s duration of stay can affect their susceptibility to suffering from the symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea.
  • Overall, these studies have found that people traveling to developing countries for shorter periods of time (several days up to a month) are at a significantly greater risk of developing diarrhea as compared to travelers who remain in their destination country for a month or longer.

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