Prevention of Diarrhea

How can I prevent diarrhea?

You can prevent certain types of diarrhea, such as those caused by infections—including rotavirus and traveler’s diarrhea—and foodborne illnesses.

Infections

You can reduce your chances of getting or spreading infections that can cause diarrhea by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for 15 to 30 seconds

  • after using the bathroom
  • after changing diapers
  • before and after handling or preparing food

Rotavirus, which causes viral gastroenteritis, was the most common cause of diarrhea in infants before rotavirus vaccines ? became available. The vaccines have reduced the number of cases of rotavirus and hospitalizations due to rotavirus among children in the United States.1

Two oral vaccines are approved to protect children from rotavirus infections:

  • rotavirus vaccine, live, oral, pentavalent (RotaTeq). Doctors give infants this vaccine in three doses: at 2 months of age, 4 months of age, and 6 months of age.
  • rotavirus vaccine, live, oral (Rotarix). Doctors give infants this vaccine in two doses: at 2 months of age and at 4 months of age.

For the rotavirus vaccine to be effective, infants should receive all doses by 8 months of age. Infants 15 weeks of age or older who have never received the rotavirus vaccine should not start the series.

Parents or caregivers of infants should discuss rotavirus vaccination with a doctor.

Travelers’ diarrhea

To reduce the chances of getting travelers’ diarrhea when traveling to developing countries, avoid

  • drinking tap water
  • using tap water to make ice, prepare foods or drinks, or brush your teeth
  • drinking juice or milk or eating milk products that have not been pasteurized—heated to kill harmful microbes—viruses, bacteria, and parasites
  • eating food from street vendors
  • eating meat, fish, or shellfish that is raw, undercooked, or not served hot
  • eating raw vegetables and most raw fruits

You can drink bottled water, soft drinks, and hot drinks such as coffee or tea made with boiling water.

If you are worried about travelers’ diarrhea, talk with your doctor before traveling. Doctors may recommend taking antibiotics before and during a trip to help prevent travelers’ diarrhea. Early treatment with antibiotics can shorten a case of travelers’ diarrhea.

Foodborne illnesses

You can prevent foodborne illnesses that cause diarrhea by properly storing, cooking, cleaning, and handling foods.

Source: NIDDK (NIH)1

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Back to: « Diarrhea

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Prevention

There are no specific treatments/vaccinations to prevent infection with the organisms that commonly cause diarrhoea in Queensland. The most important means of prevention is to ensure that food is properly stored, prepared and cooked and to maintain good hygiene standards.

With any type of diarrhoea it is crucial that:

  • parents and carers wash their hands thoroughly after changing infants’ nappies, after supervising children at the toilet, after going to the toilet themselves, and before preparing or handling food
  • children should also wash their hands after going to the toilet and before eating
  • babies’ bottles should be cleaned and sterilised
  • meat products should be cooked well and raw meat should not be given to young children
  • raw meat and chicken should be stored in a covered container at the bottom of the fridge and meat juices should not contaminate other food.

Source: Queensland Health2

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Hand washing

This helps prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria that can cause diarrhoea. Always wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet and changing nappies, and before meals.

Food preparation

Following some simple rules can reduce the bacteria that cause diarrhoea. 

  • Always put foods that could spoil in the fridge. 
  • Cook meat thoroughly.
  • Never put cooked meat on surfaces or plates that have held raw meat. 
  • Wash chopping boards with hot water and soap.
  • Disinfect bench tops, stovetops and boards with a diluted bleach solution.

Source: New Zealand Health3

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You can't always prevent diarrhoea

Good food hygiene can reduce the risk of getting it.

While you have diarrhoea:

  • wash your hands well every time you've been to the toilet
  • clean the toilet after you've gone
  • don't share towels and things you put in your mouth (like cutlery)
  • wash soiled clothes or bed linen at 60 degrees or higher

Children are vaccinated against rotavirus, which causes diarrhoea, as part of their routine childhood vaccination.

Find out how to prevent travellers' diarrhoea.

Source: NHS Choices UK4

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References

  1. Source: NIDDK (NIH): niddk.nih.gov/ health-information/ digestive-diseases/ diarrhea/ all-content
  2. Source: Queensland Health: conditions.health.qld.gov.au/ HealthCondition/ condition/ 14/ 33/ 39/ diarrhoea-in-young-children
  3. Source: New Zealand Health: health.govt.nz/ your-health/ conditions-and-treatments/ diseases-and-illnesses/ diarrhoea
  4. Source: NHS Choices UK: nhs.uk/ conditions/ Diarrhoea/ 

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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.