A woman sits on an overlook with the view below of a large city she has traveled to.

How to avoid diarrhea when traveling


July 10, 2019

Contaminated food or water can cause misery. What to know before you come down with diarrhea when traveling.


It’s estimated that up to 70 percent of people experience what’s known as travelers’ diarrhea. Bacterial infection typically causes this, the result of eating contaminated food or water.

Many things can throw your digestive system off when you’re traveling. Just eating foods you’re unaccustomed to, on a different schedule, can cause constipation, stomach upset or diarrhea. There are ways to cope with minor symptoms.

Eating food or drinking water contaminated with harmful organisms can cause much more distress and more severe diarrhea. There are several infectious diseases that can cause diarrhea and an upset stomach, including hepatitis A and typhoid fever. Immunizations for hepatitis A and typhoid fever are highly recommended for travel almost everywhere in the world. Be sure you get these vaccines before your trip.

Beyond vaccinations, there are other things you should know about travelers’ diarrhea and how to prevent it.

Traveler’s diarrhea symptoms:

  • 4 or more loose bowel movements in 24 hours
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Bloating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Headache


Protect yourself by following these tips:

  • Do not drink tap water or use it to brush your teeth.
  • Order your drinks without ice.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Be cautious when choosing your food and drinks.
  • Eat only foods that are served hot.
  • Do not buy anything from food vendors on the street.


A woman takes a selfie of herself and a man standing on a bridge.

The Vanderbilt International Travel Clinic can help you and your family prepare for international travel. Call 615-936-1174 for an appointment well in advance of your trip.