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Is It Normal to Have Diarrhoea When Travelling?

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Short answer? Yes. It is perfectly normal to have traveller’s diarrhoea, especially when you are visiting high-risk areas where sanitary practices are inadequate.

What is Traveller's Diarrhoea?

Traveller’s diarrhoea (also known as “Dehli belly”) is a digestive tract illness caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated by bacteria like Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter and E. coli.

Viruses like the norovirus and rotavirus or parasites like Giardia, Entamoeba histolytica, and cryptosporidium can also cause diarrhoea. You can come in contact with these organisms through contaminated cups, plates, hands, etc.

Traveller’s diarrhoea is characterized by the passing of 3 or more watery/loose bowel motions in a single day. Most cases of this digestive disorder often occur in the first week of travel and are usually mild.

What Are The Symptoms of Traveller’s Diarrhoea?

Most reported instances of traveller’s diarrhoea happen during the first week of your travel or shortly after returning home. The common symptoms of this digestive disorder include:

  • Passing three or more loose stools in 24 hours
  • Urgent need to defecate
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Fever

Some people also experience bloody stools, a high fever, and dehydration. Most symptoms of traveller’s diarrhoea improve after two days. And, without treatment, traveller’s diarrhoea clears up entirely after a week.

If you continue to eat or drink contaminated food or water, you may have multiple episodes of traveller's diarrhoea throughout your trip.

Classifying Traveller’s Diarrhoea

Traveller’s diarrhoea can be classified according to the degree of its severity.

  • Mild – this type of diarrhoea doesn't interfere with your activities. It's tolerable and not distressing.
  • Moderate – this type of diarrhoea interferes with your activities.
  • Severe – completely prevents you from doing your planned activities. It’s also characterized by dysentery or the presence of blood in your stools.
  • Persistent – diarrhoea that lasts for two weeks or more.

The most significant complication of traveller’s diarrhoea is dehydration – where you lose salts, minerals, and vital fluids. Severe dehydration can cause problems like coma, shock, or organ damage. It is particularly dangerous for children and older people.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Sunken eyes
  • Muscle cramps
  • Light-headedness
  • Tiredness
  • Infrequent urination or passing less urine
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry tongue
  • Drowsiness
  • Cold hands or feet
  • Shallow breathing

Severe cases of dehydration may include symptoms like apathy (loss of energy and enthusiasm), confusion, and fast heart rate.

What are the High Risks Areas for Traveller’s Diarrhoea?

High-risk areas account for up to 60% of travellers’ diarrhoea cases worldwide. Usually, travellers coming from developed countries are most affected - mainly if they visit countries where sanitation and hygiene standards don't meet international standards.

Low-risk areas: Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe, and North America

Medium-risk areas: China, South Africa, the Caribbean, and Russia

High-risks areas: Central America, South America, East Africa, West Africa, North Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia

Although your chances of getting traveller's diarrhoea are mostly affected by your destination, people who belong to the groups below are more likely to catch the disorder in one of their trips:

  • People with compromised immune systems: People with weakened immune systems are more prone to developing infections.
  • People who take antacids: Stomach acid destroys food and bacteria. Antacids lower the acid levels in the stomach, leaving an environment that can promote more bacterial growth.
  • People with diabetes are more prone to infection as well as those who have cirrhosis of the liver and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Young adults: Studies show that traveller's diarrhoea is more common among young adult tourists. This is most likely due to their adventurous nature and careless food choices.

How to Treat Traveller’s Diarrhoea

The aim of treating traveller's diarrhoea is to prevent dehydration. You can do this by drinking plenty of fluids and taking ciprofloxacin 500mg. We’ll discuss both below:

Diet and Fluid

Drink plenty of ‘safe’ fluids (boiled water or bottled water). For good measure, drink at least a glass of water after passing watery stool. Avoid drinking soda or alcohol as they can make your diarrhoea worse.

You can also take rehydration drinks which are readily available over the counter. Just simply pour the contents of the sachet into water. Rehydration drinks contain the right balance of salt and sugar that help your body absorb water more efficiently.

Anti-Diarrhoea Medications

Anti-Diarrhoea antibiotics like ciprofloxacin 500mg are one of the most recommended medications to treat traveller's diarrhoea. This treatment can only cure diarrhoea caused by bacteria and not the one created by parasites or viruses.

How to use ciprofloxacin 500mg

Take one tablet of ciprofloxacin 500mg twice a day. If your symptoms don’t improve, continue your medication. If you forget a dose, take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. If it’s about time for your next dose, skip the missed dose. Never take two ciprofloxacin 500mg tablets at once to compensate for the missed dosage.

What are the side effects of ciprofloxacin 500mg?

Like all medicines, ciprofloxacin 500mg may come with side effects. These include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Skin rashes
  • Increased swelling
  • Headache

These side effects are usually mild and will go away as soon as the treatment is over. If they persist or if you think you’re suffering from unusual side effects from ciprofloxacin 500mg, stop taking the medicine and contact your doctor.

Where to buy ciprofloxacin 500mg

You can buy ciprofloxacin 500mg with confidence from Express Pharmacy.

In Summary

Traveller’s diarrhoea can be a nuisance, especially if you are in the middle of a much-needed vacation in the tropics. Although diarrhoea usually goes away on its own, it can prevent you from enjoying your planned activities if your symptoms are severe.

If you want to enjoy your holiday getaway to the fullest, make sure to:

  • Avoid uncooked meat, eggs, salads, and peeled fruit.
  • Don’t drink from tap water (even ice cubes!). Only drink treated or bottled water.
  • Wash your hands regularly, especially before eating or preparing your food.
  • Don’t swim in murky or dirty waters. Avoid swallowing water when you swim.
  • Carry a pack of rehydration drinks and ciprofloxacin 500mg in your first aid kit.