What is traveler's diarrhea?

Traveler's diarrhea is a stomach and intestinal infection that occurs because of unsanitary handling of food. Food handlers who do not wash their hands after they use the bathroom can transmit the infection to people who consume the contaminated food.

Areas with the highest risk of contracting traveler’s diarrhea include the developing countries of Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. The risk of infection varies depending on the type of eating establishment visited -- from fairly low risk in private homes to high risk in food from street vendors.

The most common culprit is a bacterium called E. coli.

What are the symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea?

The typical symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea include:

  • Abrupt onset of diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Urgent need to have a bowel movement
  • Malaise (weakness or discomfort)
  • Explosive and painful gas
  • Cramps
  • Loss of appetite

Traveler’s diarrhea usually lasts from 3 to 7 days and is very rarely life threatening.