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Traveler’s Diarrhea: Prevention and Treatment Tips

Traveller’s diarrhea is the most common health condition suffered by tourists when abroad. Not only can it upset your body’s natural rhythm, but it can also ruin your holiday.

If you’re looking for some expert advice on how to prevent traveller’s diarrhea, you’re in luck. Here, we’ll be covering what traveller’s diarrhea is, common symptoms to look out for, and top tips for treatment and prevention.

While most people will get diarrhea at some point in the life, and it‘s usually nothing to worry about, it can be distressing and unpleasant – especially when travelling abroad.

What causes traveller’s diarrhea?

Different food standards

Traveller’s diarrhea typically affects people who are travelling from a developed country to a developing country where sanitation and hygiene measures do not meet the same standards.

Contamination

Traveller’s diarrhea can also be caused by eating or drinking contaminated food and drinks. Touching your mouth with contaminated hands can also cause it.

 

Changes to your diet

When travelling abroad, sampling different cuisine allows you to get a real tase of the local culture. But changing the type of food and drink you’re used to has the potential to cause a variety of symptoms, including excess gas, stomach upset, and traveller’s diarrhea.

Stress

Travelling can be stressful – especially when things don’t go to plan. Stress (and even excitement) can lead to issues such as stomach-ache and nausea. The intensity of these emotions can send our body into immediate gastrointestinal distress, resulting in diarrhea.

What are the symptoms of traveller’s diarrhea?

As its name would suggest, diarrhea is the main symptom of traveller’s diarrhea. However, other symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever

Travel diarrhea symptoms are usually mild for most people and typically last between three to four days. However, in some cases, symptoms may persist for longer. Symptoms may also be more severe in the very young, the elderly, and those with additional health conditions.

 

When should I see a doctor about traveller’s diarrhea?

Most people experiencing mild cases of traveller’s diarrhea can manage their symptoms by staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest. Symptoms usually clear up on their own within a few days, without the need for treatment. That said, over the counter (OTC) medications – such as those containing loperamide – can help. For example, IMODIUM® Dual Action Tablets work within 1 hour to help relieve diarrhea and ease the uncomfortable symptoms of bloating, cramps and wind that are associated with it.

In some cases, you may need to seek the advice of a medical professional if you have traveller’s diarrhea and:

  • A high temperature
  • Blood in your stools
  • Are passing very watery stools or repeatedly vomiting
  • The diarrhea persists for more than five to seven days
  • You have an underlining health condition or a weakened immune system
  • You’re pregnant
  • Are elderly

You should also seek medical attention if you have a child under the age of six months who is affected by traveller’s diarrhea, especially if they’re showing signs of dehydration such as lethargy, passing little urine, and having a dry mouth, tongue, and lips.

How to treat traveller’s diarrhea

In most cases, diarrhea will clear up within a few days. However, the following tips and treatment options may help:

 

Drink plenty of water

Drinking plenty of water is important when you have diarrhea. Diarrhea can cause your body to lose more fluids, which can increase your risk of dehydration – especially among older adults and children. However, when travelling abroad, it’s important to drink bottled water, rather than tap water. This is because traveller’s diarrhea is often contracted through contaminated water.

 

Try a rehydration drink

Rehydration drinks, made from sachets, can also be effective treatment options for traveller’s diarrhea1. Most sachets can be bought from your local pharmacy and packed in your suitcase when travelling abroad. Simply add the contents of the sachet to safe drinking water or bottled water.

 

Take antidiarrheal medication

Antidiarrheal medications, can help to treat symptoms of traveller’s diarrhea. They work in harmony with your body to restore your gut’s natural rhythm and retain water and essential nutrients. Please note, this product is only suitable for adults and children 12 years and over.

 

Be mindful of what you eat

Try to eat small, light meals if you can and avoid fatty, spicy, and heavy foods. Plain foods, such as bread and rice, are good options. When abroad, only eat meals that are freshly prepared, thoroughly cooked, and served piping hot. However, if you don’t feel like eating anything, make sure you’re still getting plenty of fluids.

 

How to prevent diarrhea when travelling

Diarrhea is often caused by infection. You can reduce your risk of contracting traveller’s diarrhea by making sure you follow high standards of hygiene when abroad.

 

Here are some top tips on how to stay healthy when on your holiday:

  • Avoid drinking contaminated water
  • Always drink bottled water instead of tap water.
  • Use bottled water, rather than tap water to brush your teeth.
  • Avoid drinks with ice cubes made from tap water (e.g., cocktails, iced coffees).
  • If you’re going swimming, be careful not to swallow any water.
  • Avoid eating contaminated food
  • Make sure your food has been cooked properly.
  • Don’t leave food lying around on tables or sideboards.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before eating.
  • Avoid raw foods washed in tap water (e.g., fruit & salad).
  • Avoid uncooked meats and seafood.
  • Avoid food from street vendors.

Don’t let traveller’s diarrhea ruin your plans

Even the most cautious traveller can be caught out by traveller’s diarrhea. But don’t let diarrhea stop you from enjoying your plans. Reduce your risk of infection by maintaining high standards of hygiene at hand so you can treat diarrhea wherever you are.

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