Traveller's diarrhoea

You can be as careful as you like, but travel in exotic places particularly if you are backpacking, may mean dealing with a bit of dodgy tummy. It is even possible to pick up E.Coli gastroenteritis whilst staying in a five star hotel in some areas of the world.

You can reduce the risk by following a few easy guidelines:

  • Bottled water isnít always safe. Boiling water is usually effective, but it is not always easy to do. If you are going to drink water that is not reliable, drink it before you eat so that the acid in your gastric juices is at full strength.
  • Say no to ice in drinks and donít eat ice creams or lollies.
  • Avoid indigestion remedies; they neutralise the acid in your stomach, which provides a natural defence against the germs that cause diarrhoea and vomiting.
  • Wash your hands before eating.
  • Eat well-cooked food that has been prepared locally.
  • Avoid fresh fruit unless you can peel it yourself. Wash your hands before peeling and wash the fruit too.
  • Avoid fresh salads; even in the most expensive hotels, as human night soil is often used as a compost on vegetables.
  • Eat the local version of yogurt. It gives the gut some friendly bugs, keeping the others out!
If you succumb to a bout of diarrhoea and/or vomiting, oral rehydration is the key to treatment. Drink sugary fluids with a pinch of salt. If you are vomiting, drink sips frequently through a straw. Keep drinking until you are fed up with going to the loo to pass water.

If you are feverish, pass blood in the diarrhoea and cannot drink enough to prevent dehydration, seek medical advice. Some doctors now prescribe an antibiotic to take with you. Keep this in reserve for severe, feverish bouts of diarrhoea; try to manage with fluids initially.

Further information

This article published on
12 December 2005

Next review date 12/1/2013


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