As one of the most common conditions to befall travellers, it’s important to know where you should take the most care to avoid traveller’s diarrhoea

As spring gets underway and we start looking forward to summer, many of us will be taking the time to seek out the perfect summer getaway. What with booking hotels, flights and activities, you probably won’t spend too much time considering health factors like traveller’s diarrhoea — but these are the factors which can seriously impact on your impending trip.

Traveller’s diarrhoea is one of the most common infections seen in holidaymakers and can put a real dampener on your summer trip abroad. Knowing how to spot the signs of the condition and treat it effectively is hugely important, but it’s also important to take it into consideration from the point of choosing a destination.

Where are you most likely to contract traveller’s diarrhoea?

Although the extent and severity of traveller’s diarrhoea is largely dependent on the season of travel and your own actions when abroad, heading to certain destinations can make you far more likely to develop the condition.

Low risk destinations include the USA, Canada and New Zealand, as well as most countries in Northern and Western Europe. These countries usually practice high food hygiene standards, which can significantly limit the risk of spreading the infection.

Intermediate-risk destinations include many Eastern European countries, certain Caribbean islands and South Africa. High-risk areas for contracting traveller’s diarrhoea include countries in:

- South and South East Asia

- Africa

- The Middle East

- Mexico

- Central and South America

In India, common cases of traveller’s diarrhoea are informally referred to as ‘Delhi Belly’.

How is the condition contracted?

Traveller’s diarrhoea is most commonly contracted through the consumption of faecally contaminated food and water, usually as the result of an infected person handling food after using the toilet without thoroughly washing their hands.

These actions encourage the spread of bacteria like E.Coli and Salmonella, which are common causes of the condition. These can also be spread through the use of contaminated cups and plates. Traveller’s diarrhoea is also more common in younger travellers.

What are the warning signs of traveller’s diarrhoea?

Whether you travel to an intermediate or high-risk area, you need to know the warning signs to look out for. The nature of the condition means that the initial symptoms are usually quite sudden, so it’s important to pay attention to your bathroom habits while you are away.

The condition is defined by the passing of three or more loose/watery bowel movements within a 24-hour period. It usually occurs within the first week of travel, so be extra vigilant during this time, but remember that it is possible to contract the infection more than once in a single holiday.

Other symptoms to watch out for include bloating, vomiting, fever and abdominal cramps.

How can you avoid it?

To prevent an onset of traveller’s diarrhoea, try to avoid food and drink items such as undercooked or raw meat, raw fruit and vegetables, unpasteurised milk and tap water. In the UK we drink tap water without thinking, but in higher risk areas the water may be contaminated. It is best to either boil tap water before using, or to stick to sealed bottled water.

In case you do contract traveller’s diarrhoea while away, you should be prepared with effective antibiotic treatment to speed up your recovery. Azithromycin is the recommended, highly rated treatment for bacterial traveller’s diarrhoea, and it is available from Express Pharmacy.

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