Tourist diarrhea is a collective name for stomach upset that you can get while traveling. There is a greater risk of getting tourist diarrhea in countries with poor water treatment. The disease often goes away within three to four days. It is important that you drink extra during the time, especially in hot weather.
This text is about tourist diarrhea in adults and children over six years. But you can also get stomach upset for other reasons.
In the text Stomach Disease in young children, you can read about Stomach Disease in children younger than six years.
Symptoms of tourist diarrhea
You get one or more of the following symptoms of tourist diarrhea:
- stomach ache
When and where should I seek care?
Most people who have tourist diarrhea do not need to seek care because the problems usually go away after a few days.
- You feel very tired and weak.
- You vomit for more than a day without slowing down.
- You have had diarrhea for more than a week.
- You are stomach upset and are taking medicines for heart failure, diabetes, or any other serious illness.
- You are dry in the mouth, thirsty, pee a little, and have dark urine. There may be signs that you have a fluid deficiency.
The nurses who answer the telephone number can help you assess symptoms or where you can seek care.
If it’s in a hurry
If you have one or more of the following symptoms of tourist diarrhea, contact a health care center or an on-call clinic immediately.
- You have bloody diarrhea.
- You have a high fever and chills.
- You have severe stomach pains that do not go over even though you have vomited or have had diarrhea.
If it is closed at the health center or on-call reception, seek care at an emergency room.
What can I do for myself?
Tourist diarrhea usually goes away within three to four days. There are some things that are important to keep in mind while you are sick.
Drink a little and often
You need to drink more fluid than usual when you vomit or have diarrhea. This is especially true if you have a fever or if it is hot weather.
Not drinking enough in case of stomach illness can lead to fluid deficiency and dehydration. Older people and children are extra sensitive. Here you can read more about fluid deficiency and dehydration in children.
Here are some tips to reduce the risk of fluid deficiency:
- Drink a little at a time. Use a tablespoon if you have difficulty getting the liquid.
- Drink liquid replacement. You can buy a liquid replacement at a pharmacy, or you can mix it yourself.
- Avoid drinking very sweet drinks and light drinks. They can cause more diarrhea.
Make sure the water you drink is clean, for example, it comes from a sealed bottle. You can also drink boiled water and then cooled down. Cook until it is bubbling vigorously.
Eat food when you feel better
Try eating regular food as soon as you feel better and can start eating again. Start with small portions.
Sometimes it may feel good to start with lighter foods, such as one of the following:
- soups such as broth soup, carrot soup, rosehip soup or blueberry soup
- White bread
- cooked fish
Avoid high fiber foods and coffee, it can give you more diarrhea.
Having diarrhea can cause it to burn and hurt your buttocks. You can then try the following to relieve:
- Wash or shower the butt instead of wiping with paper. Pat dry yourself afterward, do not rub.
- Lubricate the rectum opening with a greasy cream or ointment.
Use medicines if you need to stop diarrhea temporarily
There are medicines you can use if you need to stop diarrhea temporarily, for example before a flight. Examples of such drugs are drugs containing active substance loperamide or racecadotril.
What is the cause of tourist diarrhea?
The most common cause of tourist diarrhea is various types of so-called coli bacteria. Often it is a type of bacterium called ETEC. But other types of bacteria, viruses, or parasites can also cause tourist diarrhea.
How does it get infected?
The bacteria are spread mainly through water or food that is not properly cooked or fried. Even raw seafood and cold cuts of cooked meat can cause tourist diarrhea. Vegetables fertilized or watered with contaminated water can also spread infection.
The bacteria can also infect through tap water. Ice can become contagious if the ice is made from tap water.
How can I prevent it?
There are some things you can do to reduce the risk of getting tourist diarrhea. What you can do is different, depending on the country you are in.
It is good to wash your hands frequently, no matter what country you are in
Treatment for tourist diarrhea
Most people get well by themselves. But if, for example, you have a severe fluid deficiency, you may need to receive hospital care to get fluids and salts directly into your bloodstream via the drip.
Read more in the text Care abroad if you are abroad and need care.
Influence and participate in your care
As a patient, you have under the Patient Act chance to affect your health.
You can seek care at any medical center or open specialist clinic you want throughout the country. Sometimes a referral to the open specialized care is required.
You must understand the information
In order for you to be involved in your care and treatment, it is important that you understand the information you receive from the healthcare staff. Ask questions if you don’t understand.
Children should also be involved in their care. The older the child, the more important it is.
You have the opportunity to get help from an interpreter. You also have the opportunity to get help from an interpreter if you have a hearing loss.