Diarrhea can have several underlying causes, but when it's related to travel, the most common causes are infections from bacteria, viruses or parasites or, less commonly, fungi. Infections are typically transmitted through contaminated food or water, by infected insects or through contact with infected people or animals.
First, you should schedule a pre-travel consultation as soon as you know your travel dates. A consultation appointment can provide information about the health risks you may face during your travels, as well as provide tips for avoiding disease and inform you of available vaccines. It's also important to schedule recommended vaccinations well before your departure date and to take anti-diarrhea medication with you during your travels to treat symptoms if they occur and avoid dehydration. Avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables and make sure foods you do eat are served hot and thoroughly cooked. Drink and brush your teeth with bottled water or drink other bottled or canned beverages during your travels.
An occasional loose stool may be nothing to worry about, but when diarrhea persists for more than a day following your return from travel, you should see a doctor for a post-travel evaluation so you can be tested for the presence of parasites and other pathogens. Diarrhea accompanied by fever or abdominal cramping – even if it's for less than a day – should also be evaluated right away. Travel Health Services is a part of the New York Center for Travel and Tropical Medicine, an internationally recognized research center for chronic gastrointestinal symptoms in returned travelers, which makes it uniquely positioned to provide preventive care and post-travel treatment for diarrhea.