How to avoid or treat travellers' diarrhoea

There’s nothing worse than looking forward to a relaxing holiday, only to get a stomach bug and spend hours on the toilet.

Commonly called ‘travellers’ diarrhoea’, it can come when you least expect it, but you should always be prepared.

To avoid a holiday that’s memorable for all the wrong reasons, follow these tips.

What is travellers’ diarrhoea?

You may know it as ‘Delhi Belly’ or “Bali Belly’, but the fact is that travellers’ diarrhoea can occur anywhere – even in developed countries. Around half of all international travellers report symptoms of diarrhoea and seek treatment, however it can be preventable with common sense and care.

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Also, those with diabetes and inflammatory bowel diseases can be more at risk if they are not careful.

How can I prevent travellers’ diarrhoea?

People often think the only care they need to take is to select “safe” foods and drinks but it can go further than that – foods should be freshly cooked and hot; and water should be bottled and sealed, or boiled.

But sometimes people do everything right with their food and drink and still get sick. Often, it’s due to a lack of sanitation within the restaurant.

And sometimes it’s the travellers who contaminate themselves by not washing their hands.

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Symptoms of travellers’ diarrhoea

It usually starts with a sudden urge to pass loose stools, and then gradually turns into regular trips to pass looser stools.

You may also have cramps, nausea and bloating.

Usually, travellers’ diarrhoea clears up on its own within a couple of days.


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It is possible to reduce the risk of developing the annoying condition by following some basic rules.

  1. Drink bottled water and alcohol
  2. Avoid tap water or dairy
  3. Avoid ice in your alcoholic drinks
  4. Brush your teeth with bottle water
  5. Only eat fruit and veges you can peel yourself
  6. Avoid seafood that isn’t fresh

You can further reduce your risk of traveller’s diarrhoea by practicing good hygiene. Tips include:

  • Washing your hands with soap and water after going to the toilet, and before eating or preparing food.
  • After washing your hands, make sure they are completely dry before you touch any food.
  • Make sure any dishes, cups or other utensils are completely dry after they are washed.
  • Eat at clean restaurants with a good reputation
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If you do contract a nasty bout of travellers’ diarrhoea, you can treat it by:
  • Drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration
  • Consuming oral rehydration drinks
  • Taking antibiotics to kill the bacterial infection

Tell us, have you ever been sick overseas? What happened?