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How to prevent travellers’ diarrhoea

Travellers’ diarrhoea is a common yet often preventable illness experienced by people who, as the name implies, are travelling. Most incidences occur in westerners travelling in developing countries.

How long does the illness last?

A case of travellers’ diarrhoea typically lasts for three to five days. However, young children and pregnant women are at more of a high risk of being sick for longer with more severe symptoms.

Symptoms of travellers’ diarrhoea

Travellers’ diarrhoea is usually:

  • Frequent

  • Loose

  • Watery

Other symptoms are:

  • Abdominal cramps

  • Nausea with or without vomiting

More severe cases may include:

  • Diarrhoea containing mucous or blood

  • Urgent, severe diarrhoea accompanied by bloating and burping that smells like rotten eggs.

The more serious cases generally need medical attention as you may need medication.

Travellers’ diarrhoea treatment

Most cases will disappear on their own, however, you may need to seek treatment if you have experienced more severe symptoms or are experiencing dehydration.

A doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotics or another specific treatment according to your symptoms.

For dehydration, you may require intravenous fluids.

Milder cases of dehydration may be solved with upping your intake of fluids. Drinks with electrolytes are particularly helpful, so if planning a trip to a developing country, consider packing some Hydralyte with you.

Travellers’ diarrhoea prevention

The illness is caused by eating or drinking contaminated food and water. The best method of avoiding getting ill is by ensuring the foods and water you are consuming are clean and come from a reputable source.

Try to avoid drinking tap water in areas where there could be contamination and opt for store-bought bottled water. Also, keep in mind that you shouldn’t use the tap water for brushing teeth or for washing foods.

Food to avoid:

  • Fruit or vegetables that can’t be peeled

  • Any unpasteurised dairy products

  • Ice cubes

  • Salads (as they may be washed in contaminated water)

  • Meat that is raw or undercooked

  • Food that isn’t from a reputable, clean source

We also recommend that you practice good hygiene when in developing countries to minimise your risk of getting sick. Wash your hands regularly and carry hand sanitiser with you.


Cholera can typically present as travellers’ diarrhoea as it shares many symptoms. However, cholera needs urgent medical attention as it results in severe dehydration which is very dangerous.

Avoid cholera by following the guidelines listed above and through receiving the oral cholera vaccine. The vaccine may provide you with some protection against the disease, and has been known to help minimise the risk of travellers’ diarrhoea too.

You can learn more about the disease by reading our article titled Cholera.

Travel health advice

We are a general practice with a Travel Clinic dedicated to giving patients travel health advice and administering same-day travel vaccinations. If you’d like to learn more about our Travel Clinic, please click here.

To book an appointment with us, please call us on 9721 1400 or book online.

Please note, to receive same-day travel vaccinations, we require that you download, complete and send us our pre-travel assessment form.


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