What is traveller’s diarrhoea?

By: Osler Health International
Posted on: 23 May 2024

Traveller’s diarrhoea impacts travellers who ingest contaminated food or water. This gastrointestinal issue shares many symptoms with typical food poisoning, including diarrhoea, fever, and vomiting. The symptoms of traveller’s diarrhoea can appear either during your journey or shortly after you return home.

What causes traveller’s diarrhoea?

This condition is caused by exposure to pathogens during your international travels, which your body is not used to contracting at home. While bacteria are often the culprits, viruses or parasites can also cause problems.

Pre-travel preparation to protect your health

To help prepare for a healthy and safe journey abroad,pre-travel preparation is key.

Visit a doctor for a wellness check and travel medicine consultation

Before travelling, visiting a travel medicine clinic can help you gain information as to how to protect yourself from getting ill abroad. A private doctor in Singapore can offer tailored advice based on your current condition and provide specific information on your destination.

Research your destination

Being aware of the specific health risks associated with your holiday destination is so that you can be more discerning of the food and beverage you consume during your trip. This involves researching the area’s prevalent health issues, climate conditions, and hygiene standards. That way, you can take the necessary health precautions and decide what to pack, such as suitable clothing and medical supplies.

Prepare a travel health kit

It’s recommended that you take a travel health kit tailored to your needs and the nature of your destination. At Osler Health – we have travel health kits available for purchase. Furthermore, we can tailor your kit according to any personal medications required.

Safe eating and drinking practices while travelling

Ensuring you consume safe foods and beverages abroad is crucial to avoiding health issues like traveller’s diarrhoea. These are some of the eating and drinking practices you should observe when you travel to a foreign place:

1. Choose safe foods

To minimise the risk of foodborne illnesses, always opt for thoroughly cooked and served hot food. Steer clear of undercooked meats and seafood, as these can be breeding grounds for unwanted bacteria and parasites.

Additionally, avoid consuming raw vegetables and fruit unless you can peel them yourself. You should also be cautious of consuming salads and uncooked fruit that may have been washed in contaminated water.

2. Opt for safe drinking practices

Be vigilant about where the water you drink comes from when travelling. As much as possible, always choose bottled water with an intact seal to ensure it has not been tampered with. Furthermore, avoid adding ice to your drinks unless you are certain it has been made from treated or purified water.

3. Use disinfectant wipes or sprays

Carrying disinfectant wipes or sprays means that you can clean surfaces before eating. This is particularly useful in public eating areas where the cleanliness of tables and chairs may not meet your accustomed standards.

4. Be cautious with street food

While street food can be a fun part of the travel experience in many countries, it can still pose health risks if not prepared hygienically. Therefore, before you try out any snack or dish from a street food stall, observe the cleanliness of the vendor’s stall, their food handling process, and whether the food is kept at appropriate temperatures. Opt for vendors that attract a large local crowd, as high turnover usually means fresher ingredients.

Managing traveller’s diarrhoea

These are common recommendations on what to do if you experience travel diarrhoea or food poisoning symptoms during your trip overseas:

  • Stay hydrated: The most important immediate measure is to maintain hydration. Diarrhoea and vomiting can lead to a rapid loss of fluids and electrolytes. Therefore, drinking beverages like water, broth, or sports drinks can help replenish lost fluids and electrolytes.
  • Use over-the-counter remedies: Over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications can help with addressing symptoms of diarrhoea. However, they should be used with caution and not for prolonged periods. It’s also advisable to use them only after consulting a healthcare professional, especially if a fever is present.
  • Consult a health professional: If symptoms persist for more than a few days or worsen, it is important to seek medical advice. Please note that we offer telemedicine appointments – so you can arrange a consultation with a trusted doctor, wherever you are.
  • Eat a bland diet: As your body recovers, eating a bland diet can help ease the stress on your digestive system. Foods like bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast are gentle on the stomach and can help bind stools.
  • Avoid certain food and drinks: While recovering, avoid alcohol, caffeine, dairy products, and fatty or heavily seasoned foods, as these can exacerbate symptoms.
  • Rest adequately: Giving your body enough rest is essential to recovery. Engage in light activities as you start to feel better, but don’t rush back into a hectic schedule.

Stay safe during your travels

Traveller’s diarrhoea can be unpleasant and disruptive. We recommend that if you have travel plans that you take a travel medicine kit at all times and ensure you have access to medical support via telemedicine wherever you are. For more health tips for travellers, check out another condition you should watch out for during your trip — deep vein thrombosis.

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