Preventing viral diarrhea

Wash your hands frequently to prevent the spread of viral diarrhea. To ensure you or your child is washing your hands thoroughly, always:

  • Wash frequently. Wash your hands before and after preparing food. In addition, wash your hands after handling uncooked meat, using the toilet, changing diapers, sneezing, coughing and blowing your nose.
  • Lather with soap for at least 20 seconds. After putting soap on your hands, rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds. This is about as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice through.
  • Use hand sanitizer when washing isn't possible. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you can't get to a sink. Apply the hand sanitizer as you would hand lotion, making sure to completely cover the fronts and backs of both hands. Use a product that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

Preventing diarrhea from contaminated food

To guard against diarrhea caused by contaminated food:

  • Serve food right away or refrigerate it after it has been cooked or reheated. Leaving food out at room temperature can encourage growth of bacteria.
  • Wash work surfaces frequently to avoid spreading germs from one food item to another. Wash your hands and your work surfaces several times during food preparation.
  • Use the refrigerator to thaw frozen items. Or try putting plastic-wrapped frozen items in a bowl of cold water to thaw. Don't leave frozen items on the counter to thaw.

Preventing traveler's diarrhea

Diarrhea commonly affects people who travel to countries where inadequate sanitation and contaminated food and water are encountered. To reduce your risk:

  • Watch what you eat. Eat hot, well-cooked foods. Avoid raw fruits and vegetables unless you can peel them yourself. Also avoid raw or undercooked meats and dairy foods.
  • Watch what you drink. Drink bottled water, soda, beer or wine served in its original container. Avoid tap water and ice cubes. Use bottled water even for brushing your teeth. Keep your mouth closed while you shower. Beverages from boiled water, such as coffee and tea, are probably safe. Remember that alcohol and caffeine can aggravate diarrhea and dehydration.
  • Ask your doctor about using antibiotics. If you're traveling to a developing country for an extended period of time, ask your doctor about starting antibiotics before you leave on your trip. In certain cases, this may reduce the risk that you'll develop traveler's diarrhea.
  • Check for travel warnings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains a travelers' health website where disease warnings are posted for foreign countries. If you're planning to travel outside of the United States, check there for warnings and tips for reducing your risk.
Jun. 11, 2013