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Travellers Diarrhoea

Traveller's Diarrhoea is a common term for diarrhoea illness when travelling, usually within the first 2 weeks of visiting a foreign destination. Traveller's Diarrhoea will typically affect up to 60% of travellers, most commonly occurring in individuals that visit tropical, semi-tropical or developing countries, such as Asia, the Middle East, Latin America or Africa. People that are travelling within Western Europe, USA, Australia or New Zealand are at low risk of developing traveller’s diarrhoea, whereas countries such as Russia, South Africa & select Caribbean countries carry an intermediate risk.

Common Symptoms Of Travellers Diarrhoea:

Traveller's experience diarrhoea through bacteria, parasites and viruses that are picked up from eating food or drinking water. It can be defined by three or more loose stools within 24 hours, and with at least one symptom of cramps, nausea, fever or vomiting. Traveller’s Diarrhoea often occurs in the first week of travel, but can occur at any time when travelling, and even after returning home. Many cases of traveller's diarrhoea will resolve themselves within 1 or 2 days as your immune systems fight off infection. But it is possible that it could last for up to 8 days. If you are still experiencing symptoms after 8 days then it is advisable to consult your doctor or pharmacist. If babies, children, the elderly or travellers with weak immune systems experience symptoms, then it is important to seek medical attention as symptoms can become severe.

If you are suffering from traveller’s diarrhoea and have symptoms of high temperature (fever), blood in your stools, you are suffering from dehydration, or symptoms last for more than 3 or 4 days, then you should seek medical advice. Symptoms of dehydration in adults include tiredness, dizziness, headaches, dry mouth, muscular cramps & weakness. Symptoms to look out for in children are dry mouth & tongue, weakness, passing little urine, sunken eyes and becoming lethargic.

How To Avoid Travellers Diarrhoea:

Mild symptoms of Traveller's Diarrhoea can easily be avoided with hygiene awareness, such as:

  • Washing your hands thoroughly with soap before eating, and drying your hands with a clean towel.
  • Avoid salads that have been washed in local drinking water.
  • Avoid local drinking water, dairy products & ice cream in areas where there is a high risk of infection.
  • Eat fresh food where available.
  • Avoid food from areas that have visibly poor hygiene.

If you suffer from a case of traveller’s diarrhoea then it is important to stay hydrated by drinking at least 3 to 4 litres of water a day, or 200mls of water after each watery stool. Other liquids such as fruit juice or soup are also ideal as they replace lost salts. Products such as Dioralyte sachets are ideal as they help to replace lost fluids and salts during bouts of diarrhoea or dehydration. Drinks such as coffee or alcohol should be avoided. Solid foods, such as toast, biscuits or crisps are recommended. It used to be advisable to starve yourself if you are suffering from diarrhoea; however, it is now advised that you should eat as normally as possible, with small or light meals. It is ideal to eat as soon as you are able to but to keep drinking to stay hydrated.

There are certain medications that can help to treat traveller’s diarrhoea such as Xifaxanta 200mg film-coated tablets, which are used to treat traveller’s diarrhoea in adults when not accompanied by fever or blood in the stools, or 8 or more unformed stools within 24 hours. Xifaxanta tablets work by killing the bacteria in the intestine that is causing traveller’s diarrhoea. These tablets are not recommended for individuals under 18 years old.

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For more information on Traveller's Diarrhoea, please visit the NHS Choices website.