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Traveller's Diarrhoea

Be aware of Traveller's Diarrhoea, it is the most common illness affecting travellers. It can be caused by many different bacteria, viruses and parasites, many of which are widespread worldwide.

What happens?

The main ways of catching traveller's diarrhoea is by eating contaminated food and drinking contaminated liquids.
Changes in bowel habit can be caused by stress, unfamiliar food, increased alcohol consumption and hot weather, however most episodes of diarrhoea are caused by infections.

Signs and symptoms

Traveller's Diarrhoea is usually described as passing three or more loose stools in a 24-hour period or any number of unformed stools accompanied by abdominal pain, fever, nausea or vomiting. It usually occurs during the first week of travel and is often self-limiting, lasting three or four days. In a small number of travellers, diarrhoea persists for longer than a month. Some travellers develop a post-infection irritable bowel syndrome.


The most important issue with diarrhoea is to drink enough fluids. Babies and young children with diarrhoea have the highest risk of dehydration. Older people and those with pre-existing illnesses are also more at risk of complications. Fluids are usually all that is needed for most cases of mild, self-limiting diarrhoea. Travellers should seek prompt medical care if they have taken antibiotics and symptoms do not improve within a day or two. Medical care is also necessary if they experience high fever with diarrhoea or blood and mucous in the movements. Medical attention must be sought earlier for older people or those with pre-existing medical conditions and immediately for children with bloody diarrhoea, dehydration, persistent vomiting or fever.


Food should be completely cooked and served piping hot, as most bugs are inactivated at temperatures above 60C. Care needs to be taken with drinking water. Drink only sealed bottled water or water that has been purified by boiling, or filtering combined with chemical purification. Excess alcohol should be avoided, and unfamiliar foods sampled in moderation, as both of these can contribute to diarrhoea.
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Editor: Ryan Cranston

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All content within this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Health Matters is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of the Health Matters website. Health Matters is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed. Always consult your own GP if you're in any way concerned about your health.

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