Travellers’ Diarrhoea

What is travellers’ diarhhoea?

Horrible bugs guilty of causing diarrhoea, vomiting and in some cases severe dehydration in people travelling to areas of high or intermediate risk, including Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Mexico, and South and Central America.

Risk areas for Travellers’ Diarrhoea

Map of risk areas for Travellers’ Diarrhoea
  • Key fact

    Approximately 20% of travellers are confined to bed for 1–2 days with travellers’ diarrhoea, and 40% have to change their travel plans.3

  • How do you get travellers’ diarrhoea?

    Mostly from ingesting food or water that has been contaminated with the viruses, bacteria or protozoa which cause the disease.2,3

  • Which countries are affected by travellers’ diarrhoea?

    Travellers’ diarrhoea is most common in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Mexico, and South and Central America. However, it can occur in many other areas of the world (see map).1

  • What are the symptoms of travellers’ diarrhoea?

    Travellers’ diarrhoea is defined as three or more unformed stools in a 24 hour period with at least one additional symptom.4 Symptoms can start from as little as 6 hours and will depend on the type of bug that has caused the infection. They may include watery or bloody diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever, and vomiting.2

  • How serious is travellers’ diarrhoea?

    Without treatment, travellers’ diarrhoea usually lasts three to seven days.2 Medical care should be sought if symptoms do not clear up within three days or immediately in the case of fever, blood and/or mucous in stools, altered mental state, severe stomach pain, jaundice or rash.5 Early medical care is also recommended for children, the elderly or vulnerable people cannot tolerate fluids or are dehydrated.5

  • Can I prevent getting travellers’ diarrhoea?

    You can take the following precautions to help reduce your risk of infection:

    • Visit your nearest convenient pharmacy or specialist travel health clinic for a risk assessment before your trip
    • Wash your hands frequently, especially before preparing or eating food, and after using the toilet5
    • Ensure good hygiene is practiced when swimming. Don’t swim if you have diarrhoea, and avoid ingesting any pool water5
    • Use boiled, bottled or disinfected water for drinking, preparing food and drinks, as well as brushing your teeth6
    • Avoid ice in drinks6
    • Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat, fruit and vegetables that you haven’t prepared yourself. It is also advised to avoid eating shellfish and seafood6

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References
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yellow Book 2020. Chapter 4 Travel-Related Infectious Diseases. Escherichia coli, Diarrheagenic. July 2019. Available online: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2020/travel-related-infectious-diseases/escherichia-coli-diarrheagenic (Last accessed May 2021)
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yellow Book 2020. Chapter 2 Preparing International Travelers. Travelers’ Diarrhea. November 2019. Available online: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2020/preparing-international-travelers/travelers-diarrhea (Last accessed May 2021)
  3. Ericsson CD. Travelers’ diarrhea. Epidemiology, prevention, and self treatment. Infect Dis Clin North Am 1998;12:285–303
  4. Steffen R. Epidemiology of travellers’ diarrhea. J Travel Med 2017;24:S2-S5.
  5. Factsheets. Travellers’ Diarhhoea. August 2019. Available online: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/factsheet/53/travellers-diarrhoea (Last accessed May  2021)
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yellow Book 2020. Chapter 2 Preparing International Travelers. Food & Water Precautions. June 2019. Available online: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2020/preparing-international-travelers/food-and-water-precautions (Last accessed May 2021)

UK-BOTB-2100034 May 2021