Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What should I know about traveler's diarrhea?"
I hear that a lot of people get sick when they travel. I am a 29 year old woman. How should I prepare for diarrhea in a foreign country?
The most important thing to do prior to traveling is to talk to your primary care doctor about where you are going and what you plan to be doing. Based on what countries you will be traveling to, they will make some recommendations about possible vaccinations that you should have before the travel. In most developed countries, like countries in Europe, no special preparations are necessary. But, in most developing countries, at a minimum your doctor will likely recommend that you be vaccinated against hepatitis A and typhoid, two causes of diarrhea that also have effects on other parts of the body and therefore need to be prevented. In addition to this, your doctor may give you an antibiotic to be taken in the case of contracting diarrhea abroad. The main thing to remember about this is that most of the types of diarrhea you are likely to get while abroad do not require antibiotics, as they are either viral or not very serious bacteria. Therefore, if you just have loose, liquid bowel movements without many other symptoms, you do not need the antibiotics. You should reserve the antibiotics for a true case of "dysentery", meaning fever, abdominal pain, and blood in the bowel movements.
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