Patients Going to Rio Olympics? Here's the Advice You Should Give

Susan Yox, RN, EdD; Martin Cetron, MD


July 20, 2016

Editorial Collaboration

Medscape &

Foodborne and Waterborne Diseases

Medscape: Do you recommend prescribing antibiotics so that travelers can self-treat diarrhea?

Dr Cetron: Travelers' diarrhea is among the most predictable travel-related illnesses. Travelers can avoid it by choosing only bottled drinks and eating only food that is cooked and served hot. Adults and older children may wish to treat mild to moderate diarrhea symptoms with antimotility agents such as loperamide or bismuth subsalicylate. Antibiotics can be reserved for more severe symptoms, but travelers may appreciate having them available so that they don't miss a crucial event. A single dose of 500 mg ciprofloxacin is standard treatment.

Medscape: What about swimming? A recent news report said that the beaches are contaminated with raw sewage.

Dr Cetron: Some recreational water around Rio has been found to be contaminated with sewage. Travelers should look for recreational water areas that the government has classified as suitable (própria in Portuguese), cover cuts with waterproof bandages, and try to avoid swallowing water. Note that schistosomiasis is also a risk in Brazil, so travelers should not swim in fresh water (lakes and rivers). A chlorinated pool is probably safest.

Medscape: Does CDC have any resources that I can offer my patients to help them avoid foodborne and waterborne disease?

Dr Cetron: I thought you'd never ask! Yes, CDC has two useful mobile apps for iPhone and Android. The first is called Can I Eat This? and it guides travelers through a series of questions to help them make safe food and beverage choices. CDC's app TravWell is a healthy-travel planning app that offers vaccine recommendations and a travel-health packing list. CDC also has printable infographics that show examples of safer and riskier choices (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Safe food and drink choices.