What is Traveller’s Diarrhoea?
A common complaint from people traveling to different areas is diarrhoea. When in a new area they experience unformed or loose stools and often other symptoms such as bloating, stomach pains and cramps, fever and nausea or vomiting. It normally occurs within 24 hours of arrival in the new area.
It is a widespread condition affecting between 20% to 50% of travellers. The percentage is even higher in developing countries.
Causes of Traveller’s Diarrhoea
Our bodies become accustomed to bacteria that we are exposed to in the area in which we live and we build up a tolerance for them. When travelling, we are exposed to new bacteria or new strains that we have not encountered before. The bacteria is not necessarily any worse than what we are exposed to at home, it is just that our bodies are not accustomed to them. The locals of that area are not affected in any way, just as we are not affected back home. The vast majority of cases Traveller’s Diarrhoea can be attributed to bacteria. The balance of cases can be put down to parasites or viruses.
The most common bacteria causing this condition are strains of Salmonella and E. Coli. In viral cases it is normally the Norovirus and the parasites mostly Giardia. The most common way we come into contact with these organisms is through drinking contaminated water or beverages, eating contaminated food as well as through direct contact with infected utensils, surfaces and hands.
How to prevent Traveller’s Diarrhoea
There are a number of measures one can take to minimize the risk of infection and avoid contracting Traveller’s Diarrhoea.
Drink only bottled water. If this is not possible use distilled water or boil it first and allow to cool. Do not drink tap water or any beverage that gives you any doubt. Also avoid ice cubes in your drinks unless you can be certain they were made from safe water, as described above.
Avoid local iced or frozen desserts, especially in places that have regular power outages.
Stay away from raw fruit or vegetables that are already peeled as well as those that have been rinsed under tap water.
Practice good hygiene and wash hands regularly, especially before eating.
Standby Treatment is advised for people travelling who:
Have existing medical illnesses which could get worse if dehydration or diarrhoea is experienced.
Go to remote places wherein help is not readily available.
Currently have IBS and other pre-existing bowel conditions.
Constantly experience Diarrhoea when traveling to foreign countries.
Standby treatment is recommended for certain travellers including:
Travellers who frequently experience diarrhoea when travelling abroad
Travellers with existing bowel conditions such as IBS
Travellers to remote destinations where medical help is not easily available
Travellers with existing medical conditions, which may be made worse by severe diarrhoea/dehydration
The Difference between Azithromycin and Ciprofloxacin
Azithromycin is the best choice for travellers to areas in South East or South Asian and people are advised to have it handy. This is because of the resistance to quionolone in those areas. For most other foreign destinations, the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin will be an effective treatment for Traveller’s Diarrhoea.