Diarrhea is a dangerous illness that causes the death of 2,195 children worldwide every day.1 It’s also very common, with an estimated 211 to 375 million bouts of diarrheal illness annually in the U.S. alone.2 Although some cases of diarrhea are unavoidable — such as when it is caused by conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) — acute infectious diarrhea, which is the most common type, is preventable.
Ways to Stop Diarrhea Infection
Through precautionary measures, you can protect yourself and your family from infectious diarrhea, the second leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide.3 Here are strategies to prevent this serious illness:
• Wash your hands properly — A study found that hand washing can reduce diarrhea episodes by about 30 percent.4 Always wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, changing diapers and before eating or handling food.5 If you want to wash your hands effectively and get rid of diarrhea-causing germs, follow these five simple steps:
1. Use warm, running water and a mild soap (skip the antibacterial soap).
2. Work up a good lather all the way to your wrists, and scrub for around 15 to 20 seconds.
3. Make sure all surfaces are covered, including the back of your hands, wrists, between the fingers and around and below your fingernails.
4. Rinse thoroughly under running water.
5. If you're in a public place, use a paper towel to open the door (this will protect your hands against germs on the handles).
• Add probiotics to your diet — There is growing evidence that probiotics can help prevent infectious diarrhea in healthy children and adults.6 Probiotics promote good health and establish a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut.
The best sources are fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut and kimchi, and traditionally cultured yogurt made from raw grass fed milk, kefir and natto. You can also take a high-quality probiotic supplement.
• Avoid unnecessary antibiotic use — Experts believe that antibiotic-associated diarrhea happens because this type of medication upsets the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract.7 Some studies indicate that antibiotics can even change gut microbiome for up to a year.8 This is why you should take antibiotics only when absolutely necessary.
• Practice proper food hygiene — You can help prevent diarrhea from food poisoning by cooking your food thoroughly, ensuring food is kept properly stored in the refrigerator or freezer, never storing cooked and raw foods together, and not eating food that's past its use-by date.9 Remember to wash your fruits and vegetables carefully before consumption as well.
• Watch what you drink — Traveler's diarrhea usually affects people who travel to other countries and consume contaminated water. You can help avoid this common type of diarrhea by only drinking safe and clean water and other beverages in their original container. Additionally, make sure to keep your mouth closed while taking a shower.10
If you have infectious diarrhea, you should take precautions like washing your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom. In cases like viral gastroenteritis, the virus is in your vomit, and can even become airborne during expulsion.11 In this instance, extra measures like isolation are necessary, so that other people will be protected from getting infected with this illness.