15 Common Causes of Travelers Diarrhea

It can happen to anyone, but some people are more prone to it than others. Traveler’s diarrhea is a major inconvenience, and something nobody wants to deal with. While many people suffer from diarrhea for one reason or another, it often affects people when they travel. It may sound like an illness itself, but it’s actually a symptom.

There are many things that can cause diarrhea, and the reason people often experience it while traveling is that they are more likely to be exposed to the various causes while traveling. The best way to treat traveler’s diarrhea is to avoid the things that cause it. You may also take medications that can help relieve the symptoms. If you feel that the diarrhea is caused by an illness, you should see a doctor. If the underlying cause isn’t treated, diarrhea may continue and even become severe.

Here are some of the most common causes of traveler’s diarrhea. 

1. Stress

Many people feel stressed when they travel, which can have negative effects on the body and digestive tract. You may not even feel like you are going on a stressful trip, but the stress of packing and planning can still take a toll on your body. It may also be due to the excitement. The emotions simply make your stomach and intestines work differently and can lead to diarrhea.

Some people experience this in the days leading up to the trip and notice that it gets better once they arrive. Many people don’t experience it until they arrive at their destination, which can be a major inconvenience. If you know you are prone to suffering from this condition, you can take medication to help prevent it.

Staying calm and trying not to stress out about your travels can also help reduce the symptoms and may even help you enjoy your trip more. 

2. Diet

When you travel, you don’t eat the same as you do at home. Many people eat much faster, eat more, and eat foods that they don’t normally eat. If you are traveling to different parts of the world, you may be introduced to a variety of different foods that you have never had before. When your body isn’t used to eating something, it may digest it differently.

Certain foods can cause diarrhea, or your body may treat them differently since they are new. The more you eat these foods, the less likely you are to suffer from diarrhea. If you are just trying them for the first time though, it’s not abnormal to suffer from diarrhea while your body learns how to digest them properly.

Many people also eat foods that are not as good quality as they normally eat when they travel. This may include junk food or fast food since many people are in a hurry while traveling and don’t have time to enjoy sit-down meals at better quality restaurants. 

3. Contaminated Food

Contaminated food can lead to diarrhea and is one of the most common causes of traveler’s diarrhea. Certain parts of the world don’t have strict laws about food preparation, and many restaurants don’t wash their foods, store it, or prepare it properly.

Sometimes food is left out, especially with buffets and salad bars. Insects can land on the food and spread bacteria and germs. It’s not uncommon for people to sneeze or accidentally spit on food as they walk by it. If you eat food that is contaminated, the bacteria or germs can quickly travel through your digestive tract and cause diarrhea.

Many people also experience nausea, cramping, stomach pain, and vomiting if they eat contaminated food. People are affected differently by different bacteria and contaminations. Most people like to try foods from the different places they travel and don’t realize that the food may not be safe or could be contaminated. 

4. Contaminated Water

If you travel often, you probably know you shouldn’t drink the water from certain places. This is particularly true if you are traveling to underdeveloped countries that don’t have water treatment systems. Water in different areas contains different bacteria and parasites. The people who live in these areas and drink the water regularly can tolerate it or may have built of immunity to these things.

People who are traveling to the area haven’t been exposed to these parasites and bacteria and may have a severe reaction to them if they consume them. You shouldn’t drink tap water in a foreign country. If you need to drink water, be sure to drink bottled water.

Even then, you should make sure the bottled water comes from a company that is reputable and that you trust follows normal health regulations in their factory when bottling it. Be careful not to drink any mixed drinks or other products that may contain tap water too. 

5. Bacteria

Bacteria can find their way into almost anything. You may accidentally consume bacteria while eating or drinking, but you can also come in to contact with it in other ways. Some bacteria can live on hard surfaces for fairly long periods of time and can be picked up when you flush a toilet, turn on a faucet, or touch a doorknob or handle. If you touch your face or mouth, these bacteria can make their way through your digestive tract.

Once they get to your intestines, they can lead to diarrhea. Since people who travel are often around thousands of others on buses, in airports, and in hotel rooms, they are more likely to be exposed to different germs and bacteria.

This is why people who travel often are more prone to getting sick in general and suffering from stomach problems such as traveler’s diarrhea. Always wash your hands or use antibacterial gel when traveling to avoid getting sick and spreading germs. 

6. Medications

Some medications can cause diarrhea. A lot of people like to carry medication with them when they travel in case they get sick. Some people also like to take medications before traveling to help boost their immune systems, so they are less likely to get sick during their trip. People that get motion sickness may also take various medications to help prevent them from feeling bad while driving, flying, or traveling on a boat.

These medications can all have various effects on the body and may lead to diarrhea. Since travelers take a lot of different medications, it can be hard to determine which one is the cause. Stopping the medication will typically help alleviate the problem, but it can take a few days before the medication leaves the body.

If you are planning on taking medications while traveling, it’s a good idea to start them before you leave so you can see if they will affect you negatively. 

7. Illness

There are a lot of illnesses and diseases that can cause diarrhea. Since the body is often under stress while traveling, it can cause the immune system to fail or not work as well as it normally does at fighting off illnesses. People who travel are exposed to a lot of different germs, illnesses, viruses, and bacteria. They can contract an illness from another person they sit beside on a bus or plane, or from areas like an airport or public restroom.

Not all of these illnesses cause diarrhea, but many do cause stomach problems. Some can be serious and others mild. It can be hard to determine if you are suffering from food poisoning or illness when you become sick with a traveler’s diarrhea.

If there is an underlying illness causing diarrhea, you will need to treat it before diarrhea will go away. If there is no serious condition causing it, you may be able to take anti-diarrhea medication and find some relief. 

8. Virus

Viruses can cause a lot of different symptoms, and diarrhea is one of them. When you travel, you are likely to encounter a lot of different viruses. Many people have already been exposed to them and won’t become sick. If you happen to be exposed to a virus you haven’t been vaccinated against or have ever had before, you could become sick. Some people don’t realize that their traveler’s diarrhea is more than just a random occurrence. They may actually have a virus.

Viruses need to run their course, but you should drink plenty of liquids and try to rest when possible. Diarrhea can cause you to become dehydrated quickly, and if severe cases, it can require hospitalization. If you are traveling somewhere that you feel you may be exposed to different viruses, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor to see if there are any vaccinations available. 

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