Up to half of European travellers abroad to developing areas, including South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, will experience travellers' diarrhoea at some point during their trip. It usually occurs within the first week of arriving in the country but can occur at any time.
As well as loose, watery motions, the symptoms of travellers' diarrhoea can also include nausea, bloating, stomach cramps, and vomiting. It has the potential to ruin a trip, however, it is rarely serious in itself with dehydration being a major risk. It is therefore important to drink plenty of clean water and rehydration sachets to keep hydrated, especially in hot climates where dehydration is a greater risk. On average travellers' diarrhoea will last around 3 days but can persist for over a week.
When to get medical help
If you develop the following symptoms, you should urgently consult with a doctor for appropriate treatment:
- Severe dehydration
- Bloody stools
- Fever above 38.5 degrees centigrade
- Diarrhoea lasting over 3 days, especially with treatment
How dangerous is Travellers' Diarrhoea?
While it has a very high potential to spoil your vacation, most cases of travellers' diarrhoea are self-limiting and usually cause no serious or permanent damage. It may tie you to a restroom for 2-4 days or even keep you in bed with symptoms such as stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever and fatigue. Re-hydration therapy is usually sufficient, but antibiotics may be necessary to clear up some bacterial infections, especially if fast relief is required. If it is caused by parasites, diarrhoea may persist. Persistent diarrhoea lasting longer than 3-4 days or not responding to treatment should be treated by a doctor. In about 10% of cases, it may lead to chronic irritable bowel syndrome.
The Independent Pharmacy is able to provide a Travellers' Diarrhoea Treatment Pack to those who are going on holiday to at-risk destinations. It contains an antibiotic, anti-diarrhoeal medication and rehydration salts to treat your symptoms, cure the infection and keep you hydrated so you can make the most of your trip abroad.