General Medicine

Traveler's Diarrhea: What is it? How do you treat it?

Reviewed by The Clinical Committee

December 20, 2018

  • The FDA has just approved a new safe treatment for Traveler's Diarrhea.

  • This is a strikingly common condition that is familiar to millions of world travelers.

  • Fortunately, nearly all people with traveler's diarrhea will get better on their own, but there are ways to speed things up.

chart of aemcolo efficacy, a new drug for travelers diarrhea

Are you traveling somewhere warm this winter? You may want to watch out for traveller’s diarrhea. In some parts of the world, nearly 50% of travelers may get travelers diarrhea within the first two weeks of their trip.

The FDA has just approved a brand new drug for travelers diarrhea that promises to speed up recovery from travelers diarrhea.

For most cases, you may not need it, but its a good thing to keep around just in case if you’re traveling to a particularly risky area.

Most cases of travelers diarrhea will resolve on their own over time, but some cases can last for weeks and include other unpleasant symptoms as well. Based on published data, this drug may be effective in reducing your “sick” time, and increasing your odds of a rapid recovery.

What is Traveler's Diarrhea

Travelers Diarrhea is a very common condition that affects world travelers, particularly to regions such as Asia and Central America. According to one study,

This is most commonly caused by bacteria, including certain strains of E. Coli and Shigella, though viruses do cause a minority of cases.

For most individuals, they will only get diarrhea and cramps. About 20% will also have a fever, and 20% of patients will have vomiting as well. Another 10% will have bloody diarrhea.

Notably, while most cases resolve on their own, some studies estimate that 5-10% of patients will have it for more than a month, and 5-10% of patients may be left with a post-diarrhea Irritable Bowel Syndrome after their case of travelers diarrhea.

Aemcolo: A New Treatment for Traveler's Diarrhea

Fortunately, there is a new safe treatment that has been approved by the FDA. While most patients will quickly get better on their own, the drug can potentially speed up your recovery and increase your odds of getting better within a week.

In a Phase III randomized controlled trial, researchers found that patients on this drug recovered about 1 day faster than patients on placebo (A “dummy” pill, or a sugar pill), and had a 24% higher chance of recovering within 5 days. While this drug is not a lifesaving drug, it can get you back on your feet faster and rescue your vacation.

Aemcolo, rifamycin, a drug for traveler's diarrhea

Best Treatment of all: Hydration

If you do have mild diarrhea, you may be able to treat it at home without medications. The key is getting enough hydration. Studies have shown that oral rehydration therapy is one of the most effective therapies, nearly as effective as getting an IV.

However water alone is not be enough. According to experts, you will need sugar and salt as well to help you body absorb and retain the water. For mild cases, drinking fluids with sugars and salts may be sufficient.

You can purchase ORT salts online, or if in a pinch, you can mix your own. The formula below has been cited by multiple experts as a simple rehydration solution that can be made anywhere:

Oral Rehydration Solution Formula

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