Call a doctor if you have diarrhea that is severe, lasts more than a few days or is bloody. If you are traveling, call an embassy or consulate for help locating a doctor. Other signs that you should seek medical attention include a fever of 102 F (39 C) or higher, persistent vomiting, and signs of severe dehydration, including a dry mouth, muscle cramps, decreased urine output or fatigue.
If you have diarrhea and you've just returned home from a trip abroad, share that trip information with your doctor when you call to make an appointment.
Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
Information to gather in advance
- Pre-appointment instructions. At the time you make your appointment, ask whether there are immediate self-care steps you can take to help recover more quickly.
- Symptom history. Write down any symptoms you've been experiencing and for how long.
- Medical history. Make a list of your key medical information, including other conditions for which you're being treated and any medications, vitamins or supplements you're currently taking.
- Questions to ask your doctor. Write down your questions in advance so that you can make the most of your time with your doctor.
The list below suggests questions to ask your doctor about traveler's diarrhea.
- What is causing my symptoms?
- Are there any other possible causes for my symptoms?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- What treatment approach do you recommend?
- Are there any possible side effects from the medications I'll be taking?
- Will my diarrhea or its treatment affect the other health conditions I have? How can I best manage them together?
- What is the safest way for me to rehydrate?
- What dietary restrictions should I follow and for how long?
- How soon after I begin treatment will I begin to feel better?
- How long do you expect a full recovery to take?
- Am I contagious? How can I reduce my risk of passing my illness to others?
- What can I do to reduce my risk of this condition in the future?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions as they occur to you during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over points you want to talk about in-depth. Your doctor may ask:
- What are your symptoms?
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have you traveled recently?
- Where did you travel?
- Have your symptoms been getting better or worse?
- Have you noticed any blood in your stools?
- Have you experienced symptoms of dehydration, such as muscle cramps or fatigue?
- What treatments have you tried so far, if any?
- Have you been able to keep down any food or liquid?
- Are you pregnant?
- Are you being treated for any other medical conditions?
Oct. 04, 2016
- Wanke CA. Travelers' diarrhea: Microbiology, epidemiology, and prevention. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 21, 2016.
- Moore KS. Travelers' diarrhea: Risk reduction and management. The Nurse Practitioner. 2015;40:1.
- Travelers' diarrhea: Self-treatable conditions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2012/chapter-2-the-pre-travel-consultation/travelers-diarrhea.htm. Accessed Aug. 21, 2016.
- Steffen R, et al. Traveler's diarrhea: A clinical review. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2015;313:71.
- Diarrhea. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/diarrhea/Pages/facts.aspx#what. Accessed Aug. 24, 2016.
- Zaidi D, et al. An update on travelers' diarrhea. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology. 2015;31:7.
- Food and water safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed Aug. 22, 2016.
- Wanke CA. Travelers' diarrhea: Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 21, 2016.
- Food and water precautions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2012/chapter-2-the-pre-travel-consultation/food-and-water-precautions.htm. Accessed Aug. 22, 2016.
- Water disinfection for travelers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2012/chapter-2-the-pre-travel-consultation/water-disinfection-for-travelers.htm. Accessed Aug. 24, 2016.
- Picco MF (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 29, 2016.