Travelers' diarrhea is a syndrome characterized by an increase
in the frequency of unformed bowel movements. Commonly associated
symptoms include abdominal cramps, nausea, bloating, fever,and fatigue.
Episodes of travelers' diarrhea usually begin abruptly, and occur
during travel or soon after returning home. It is acquired through
ingestion of contaminated food or beverages.
Especially risky foods include raw or undercooked meat and seafood,
and raw fruits and vegetables. Tap water, ice, and unpasteurized
milk and dairy products may be associated with increased risk of
travelers' diarrhea. Compared to food prepared in private homes,
risk generally is higher at restaurants, and highest for food obtained
from street vendors.
Travelers' diarrhea typically results in four to five loose or
watery stools per day. It commonly lasts three or four days, but
can persist for weeks or months. Travelers may experience more than
one attack during a single trip. Travelers to developing countries
often face a rapid, dramatic change in the type of microorganisms
in their gastrointestinal tract, which may overcome natural defense
mechanisms and result in diarrhea. These infectious agents may include
bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other types of organisms.
In addition to taking appropriate food and beverage precautions,
there are medications that may potentially be used to prevent or
treat travelers' diarrhea. The use of such products should be discussed
with a physician, in conjunction with the traveler's medical history
and specific itinerary. Travelers with persistent diarrhea following
their return should seek medical attention to determine the cause
of their illness and to initiate appropriate treatment.