Diarrhea is defined as more than three loose stools per day and can be caused by many things including food and water contamination, viruses, bacterial infections, and poor hygiene (among others). And while some instances of diarrhea are impossible to prevent, others are simple. Here’s how to prevent diarrhea with some easy-to-follow everyday habits.
Wash Your Hands
Proper hygiene and hand washing is an easy way to help prevent diarrhea (and other illnesses, too). Bacterial, viral, and even parasitic infections can be passed from contaminated hands, so make sure you wash your hands after eating, going to the bathroom, handling money, petting animals and any other situation that leaves you with questionably clean hands.
Scrub your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds then rinse. Be sure to teach your kids proper hand washing technique.
Avoid Problem Foods
Any foods that you are knowingly sensitive or allergic to are definite no-nos. Research shows that foods likely to cause diarrhea include dairy, gluten, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine.
Wash Your Fruits and Veggies
The surface of fresh, raw produce (especially leafy veggies like lettuce, cabbage, etc.) is more likely to be contaminated than prewashed and cooked fruits and vegetables.
The FDA recommends washing produce gently with warm water – there is no need to use soap or a produce wash. It’s best to wash your produce prior to cutting or peeling it so bacteria and dirt that may be on the peel or rind are not transferred from the knife to the inner portion you’ll be eating. It’s also a good idea to remove and dispose of the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage.
Properly Prepare Meat
It’s important to know how to properly handle and prepare meat. Cook meat thoroughly and keep a separate cutting board that you regularly disinfect. Be sure to wash your hands after meat prep, and any other surfaces that come into contact with raw meat.
Avoid the Sick
This one might seem obvious but stick to it! And remember that this works both ways. Just as you might want to reconsider your get together with a sick friend, you probably also want to do your friends and coworkers a favor by staying home when you’re sick.
Take Precautions While Traveling
Traveler’s diarrhea is incredibly common but can be easy to prevent. Take precautions such as using only bottled (or filtered) water for drinking, cooking, and brushing your teeth. Be careful when drinking beverages containing ice as ice may be made with unfiltered water. Avoid food from street vendors and raw or undercooked foods.
In addition to avoiding certain food and drinks, be wary of swimming. Accidentally ingesting contaminated water while swimming is a common cause of traveler’s diarrhea.
Ask Your Doctor About Medications
If your doctor prescribes a medication for something, check in as to whether it might cause diarrhea, and ask for alternatives if possible.
Follow the tips discussed here, and you can help prevent diarrhea while traveling or at home.