Many people find that when they travel from a developed country to an underdeveloped country, they end up suffering from travellers’ diarrhoea. Although the risk is entirely dependent on where and when you are travelling, there are fortunately ways to reduce your chances of getting it and managing symptoms of travellers’ diarrhoea.
The higher risk regions where travellers are more likely to suffer from an attack of travellers’ diarrhoea include a majority of countries in Asia, Middle East, Africa, and Central and South America. It has been suggested that younger travellers are more likely to suffer from travellers’ diarrhoea, simply because they tend to be more adventurous and take more risks than older travellers.
Causes Of Travellers’ Diarrhoea
The single most common cause of travellers’ diarrhoea is ingesting food or drinks which are contaminated with microorganisms that can cause diarrhoea. Many areas which are underdeveloped have lower standards of public and restaurant hygiene, meaning there is a higher risk of water and food contamination. Therefore as locals are repeatedly exposed to these microorganisms, they become immune and are no longer affected by these contaminated foods.
There are numerous microorganisms which can cause the onset of travellers’ diarrhoea, such as;
- Bacteria. E. Coli is one of the most common bacterial causes of travellers’ diarrhoea. Bacterial infections are commonly associated with severe pain in the abdomen, and fever.
- Viruses. The second most common cause of travellers’ diarrhoea.
- Parasites. These infections will last longer than a few days and can even cause bloody stools
- Unknown causes. Sometimes the causes of travellers’ diarrhoea cannot be found, but it has been suggested that diarrhoea is the response of the digestive system to unfamiliar microorganisms.
Preventing Travellers’ Diarrhoea
As there are so many different microorganisms responsible for causing diarrhoea, experiencing one bout of illness will not exclude or make you immune from experiencing another. However, you can prevent diarrhoea by being careful with your personal hygiene and paying close attention to your choice of food or drink. Tips include;
- Make sure that you always wash your hands with soap and water both after using the toilet and also before you begin to eat.
- Eat from clean, reputable restaurants when you are eating out
- Only drink bottled water
- Use bottled water to clean your teeth or for making ice cubes
- Avoid raw or unpasteurised fruit juices
- Avoid ingesting water during water activities
- Avoid food from street vendors
Treating Travellers’ Diarrhoea
As with most cases of diarrhoea, travellers’ diarrhoea is usually self-limiting and will clear up after roughly four days. There are no vaccines available due to the many different microbial causes of the condition; therefore the best defence is prevention.
It is advised that if you are travelling abroad, you carry anti-diarrhoeal medicines such as loperamide (Immodium or Gastro-Stop) or diphenoxylate and atropine sulphate (Lomotil) with you as a precaution. These medicines work by slowing down the movement of the gut and making stools less watery. Patients suffering from travellers’ diarrhoea should also drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Oral rehydration drinks are advised in more severe cases so that lost salts and minerals can be replenished.
If you are suffering from travellers’ diarrhoea or would like to learn more about the condition, don’t hesitate to consult a health professional.