Diarrhea Prevention

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Diarrhea when caused by infections can be prevented. Some of the steps to prevent the spread of the infections that may cause diarrhea include:-

  • Washing hands thoroughly after going to the toilet and before eating or preparing food
  • After every bout of diarrhea the toilet, including the handle and seat, should be thoroughly cleaned with a disinfectant
  • Avoiding sharing items like towels, handkerchiefs, utensils etc. with a person suffering from diarrhea.
  • Avoiding contact with others during a bout of diarrhea and staying at home from school or work until the symptoms resolve. After the last bout of the diarrhea, at least 48 hours should be spent at home.
  • Mothers are advised to continue breast feeding exclusively for the first six months of the baby’s life before supplementing his or her diet with water, fruit juices and external foods. Breast feeding provides essential immunity that can prevent episodes of diarrhea
  • If the infection is diagnosed to be caused by the parasite cryptosporidium, swimming in public pools should be avoided for at least two weeks after the last episode of Diarrhea
  • In infants diarrhea due to rotavirus may be prevented by giving the rotavirus vaccine.

Preventing food poisoning

Prevention of diarrhea has another important component - preventing food poisoning. Some of the methods to prevent food poisoning and traveller’s diarrhea include:-

  • Hands should be washed with hot soapy water before eating, preparing food and after using the toilet
  • Raw and cooked foods should not be kept together in the refrigerator
  • All foods should be properly refrigerated as advised
  • Foods should be completely cooked before consumption
  • Foods that have crossed their sell-by date should not be consumed
  • Water that is consumed should be free of contaminants. It is better to carry one’s own bottle of water or buy bottled water when travelling

Preventing traveller’s diarrhea

To prevent traveller’s diarrhea, foods and drinks to be avoided include:

  • tap water or unfiltered water
  • open salads
  • fruit juices
  • eggs
  • raw or undercooked meats
  • peeled and diced fruits
  • ice cubes or ice cream sold on streets
  • shellfish
  • sauces
  • mayonnaise etc.

Cooked food, canned food, sealed bottled water, fresh bread, whole unpeeled and washed fruits, tea or coffee or hot beverages that have been boiled are usually safe.

Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)

Sources

  1. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Diarrhea/Pages/Prevention.aspx
  2. http://www.choa.org/Menus/Documents/Wellness/teachingsheets/diarrhea.pdf
  3. http://www.unicef.org/media/files/Final_Diarrhea_Report_October_2009_final.pdf
  4. http://s3.gi.org/patients/gihealth/pdf/diarrheal.pdf
  5. http://www.csun.edu/~shcenter///pdfs/education/diarrhea.pdf
  6. http://www.izincg.org/publications/files/USAID_DiarrENGL.pdf
  7. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/diarrhea/Diarrhea_508.pdf

Further Reading

Last Updated: Mar 24, 2013

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