Traveller's Diarrhoea

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Traveller's Diarrhoea

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Traveller's diarrhoea is most commonly caused by food or water contaminated with bacteria. It can also sometimes be caused by viruses or parasites.

The highest risk areas include the Middle East, Africa, Central and South America and Asia. 

Symptoms typically last 3 to 4 days, generally settle of their own accord and tend to be mild. Usually, antibiotics are not necessary but may be beneficial in certain circumstances. We can provide the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin as a standby treatment for Traveller's Diarrhoea to take with you before you travel. If however, you already have symptoms of diarrhoea then you will need to see a doctor. 

The risk of developing traveller's diarrhoea is dependent on the area you are travelling to:

High-risk: most parts of Asia, Central and South America, Africa and the Middle East.

Medium-risk: Southern Europe, Israel, Russia, some parts of the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands, South Africa.

Low-risk: North America, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan

There are regional differences in the risk of traveller's diarrhoea and estimates of incidence rates vary in different studies.

Common Symptoms

  • diarrhoea during, or shortly after a journey abroad
  • a fever
  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • vomiting
  • abdominal Cramps
Common Treatments

Most episodes of travellers' diarrhoea are mild and self-limiting, and last around 3–4 days. Consider purchasing sachets of oral rehydration salts before travelling. Treatment with loperamide or Pepto-Bismol® may be considered for adults to relieve mild-to-moderate diarrhoea. Please consult a pharmacist about the suitability of these treatment options for you. You must not use them if you have blood or mucous in the stool and/or high fever or severe abdominal pain, and you should seek medical attention if you develop any of those symptoms.

Possible antibiotic treatment we may prescribe if clinically appropriate:

  • Ciprofloxacin 500mg twice a day - 3 Day Course (£0.82*)

*Prices shown are cost price of the medication, taken from the British National Formulary 2018, and are given as a guideline. Pharmacies will usually add a dispensing fee to this which will vary considerably, so it is worthwhile phoning around to compare prices.

Preventative Measures

Certain measures may help reduce the chances of developing traveller's diarrhoea:

Hand washing

  • after using the toilet, before eating and before preparing any food

Antibacterial hand gel

  • to use when water and soap are not available

If travelling to an area with poor sanitation then avoid:

  • tap water
  • ice cubes
  • ice-cream
  • street food
  • raw seafood and shellfish
  • salads
  • eggs
  • undercooked meat
  • mayonnaise
  • unpasteurised milk
  • peeled/prepared fruit
Self-Help for Symptoms

The following advice may help with your symptoms: 

Replace lost fluids

  • Drink at least 200ml of safe drinking water after each diarrhoea in addition to what you would normally drink (which should be 1.5-2 litres daily).
  • You can use rehydration salts if available as they help improve the water to be absorbed by the body.
  • If vomiting then take small sips every few minutes.

Drinks to avoid

  • Alcohol and other drinks and beverages with a diuretic effect (such as coffee and tea) should be avoided.


  • eat small light meals if you can.

Anti-diarrhoea medication (Loperamide)

  • Do not use if you have a fever or blood in your stool.
  • Do not use for longer than two days.
  • The medication works by slowing down your guts activity. It may be used if necessary, and if your symptoms are mild.


  • may help traveller's diarrhoea and may shorten an attack by about one day.
Stand-By Antibiotic Treatment

If you are travelling to an at-risk area then we may be able to prescribe you the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin to take with you, just in case you develop significant symptoms of traveller's diarrhoea. 

However, the antibiotic should not replace you seeking medical advice where necessary. If your symptoms are worsening, not improving, or if you feel very unwell then you are advised to seek urgent medical attention.

Antibiotic Guardianship

Antibiotics should be used responsibly and only when really necessary. Overuse and misuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance. This is where the antibiotic becomes less effective at treating certain types of bacterial infection, so they do not work when needed. 

Antibiotics should be taken as prescribed, and it is important to complete the full course, this can reduce the chance of the bacteria developing an immunity to that antibiotic. It is important not to share antibiotics, and always take unused medication to your local pharmacy for disposal.

Start a Traveller's Diarrhoea Assessment

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for traveller's diarrhoea?

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