Travellers’ Diarrhoea

- Prevention, diagnosis and standby treatment

Travellers’ Diarrhoea (TD) is the most common health problem experienced by travellers.

It can be unpleasant, painful and can cause substantial disruption to your travel plans. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria and/or protozoa. Bacteria tend to be the most common cause; with E. coli, Campylobacter, and Salmonella among the likely culprits.

Travellers’ Diarrhoea is spread mainly through contaminated food and water and is more likely in hot countries and those with poor food hygiene, inadequate sanitation facilities and/or lack of access to clean water. It may be suitable for you to take standby antibiotic medication with you on your travels for the treatment and prevention of Travellers’ Diarrhoea.

Don’t let Travellers’ Diarrhoea ruin your travels!

Start our online consultation to see if it is suitable for us to prescribe standby Travellers’ Diarrhoea treatment for you online.

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Written and reviewed by a team of doctors.
Fleet Street Clinic is regulated by the CQC & GPhC.

Symptoms of Travellers’ Diarrhoea

Travellers’ diarrhoea is defined as three or more unformed stools in a 24-hour period. Often it is accompanied by at least one of the following: fever, nausea, vomiting, cramps, or bloody stools (dysentery). Symptoms usually start during or shortly after a period of foreign travel.

The severity of Travellers’ Diarrhoea can be determined according to the degree of functional impairment it causes.

A rough guide being:


tolerable, not distressing, doesn't interfere with travel plans


distressing or interferes with travel plans.


incapacitating, or prevents travel plans, or dysentery (visible blood in stools).


diarrhoea lasting 2 weeks

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Recommendations for Travellers

Drink lots of fluids

It is important you replace lost fluids during your bout of diarrhoea to avoid dehydration.

Take over-the-counter drugs

There are many over-the-counter drugs that can treat the symptoms of diarrhoea. These drugs decrease the frequency and urgency of needing to use the bathroom, and may make it easier for you to ride on a bus or aeroplane while waiting for an antibiotic to take effect.

Only take antibiotics if needed.

To combat antibiotic resistance please:

  • Only use antibiotics when needed
  • Never share antibiotics
  • Always compete course as instructed
  • Take unused medicine to local pharmacy for disposal

Diarrhoea persisting after return home?

Introducing Rapid Gastro PCR Testing

We offer rapid Gastro PCR Testing to determine the exact cause of your Travellers' Diarrhoea and gastroenteritis symptoms so that effective treatment can begin immediately.

Find out more

Travellers should seek medical care if symptoms do not improve within three days, or immediately if they have a fever of 38°C or more, blood and/or mucus in the stool or other worrying symptoms such as inability to maintain fluid intake, altered mental status, severe abdominal pain, jaundice or rash. Medical care should be sought earlier for the elderly, children and other vulnerable travellers if they are not tolerating fluids or are showing signs of dehydration.

Diarrhoea is the term used for bowel movements that are loose or watery and can be caused by a number of factors, such as medications, a food intolerance, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and bowel disease, amongst others.

Whereas, travellers’ diarrhoea is associated with international travel and tends to happen in the first week of travel. It is usually caused by bacteria, viruses or protozoa found in that foreign country. Most cases are mild, but for some people it can be severe. Symptoms usually last on average 3 to 5 days.

Prevention is always better than cure. Some illnesses that cause travellers diarrhoea can be preventable with vaccinations, such as typhoid and cholera. A travel health consultation before you go away can be useful in assessing the risk of the destination you are travelling to. During a travel consultation the nurse will advise on which vaccinations they would recommend for you. You can book an appointment online here.

The best advice is just to travel prepared. Even with the best of intentions and following all the recommended precautions, travellers’ diarrhoea can still occur.  So, travel prepared! Taking certain medications with you on your travels such as rehydration salts and anti-diarrhoea medication (such as loperamide) will help. If accessing clean water is hard, consider taking water purification tablets, or buy a reusable bottle with a filter. Those going to remote locations may consider taking an antibiotic with them which can be used should they become unwell and medical facilities are not available.

Take our online consultation to see if you would be suitable for standby Travellers’ Diarrhoea treatment.

If you have diarrhoea, consider if you feel well enough to travel. A long bus journey in hot cramped conditions on bumpy roads can be exhausting even for those who are well, and even more so if you have accompanying symptoms such as nausea.  

Loperamide is a fast acting medication for the short term relief of diarrhoea which can be used to help you get from A to B if travel is unavoidable.

Take our online consultation to see if you would be suitable for standby Travellers’ Diarrhoea treatment.

Mild cases usually get better in 3 to 5 days and with no specific treatment needed. However, severe travellers’ diarrhoea can completely disrupt travel plans. Especially if experienced in combination with other symptoms such as cramps, vomiting and a fever. It can take much longer to get better, or even need medication to help resolve.

Practise good food and water hygiene  – wash your hands regularly and use alcohol gel where handwashing facilities may not be available. Avoid tap water, stick to bottled water with an untouched seal. Ensure any food you have is well cooked and served hot. Avoid any food that has been washed in water and served cold, such as salads or fruits. without a skin. Avoid eating any foods that may have been reheated, or food that may have been subject to a lot of handling (such as canapes and buffet items).

Take our online consultation to see if you would be suitable for standby Travellers’ Diarrhoea treatment.

The short answer is no.

Antibiotics are not designed to be taken preventatively and should only be taken to help treat travellers’ diarrhoea once it strikes. There are preventative measures you can take to limit the risk of travellers’ diarrhoea such as hand washing, drinking  bottled or purified water only and only eating piping hot, well-cooked food. 

A Travellers’ Diarrhoea Kit may be suitable for you. Take our online consultation to see if you would be suitable for standby Travellers’ Diarrhoea treatment.

The type of medication used will depend on your symptoms, the severity of your travellers’ diarrhoea and also your medical history. Dehydration is a major issue if you are suffering with travellers diarrhoea – especially if experienced in a hot country. Rehydration salts can help replace salts and sugars which can be lost during vomiting and diarrhoea. They come as tablets, or in a sachet and need to be mixed with clean water (bottled, filtered or boiled). Other medications can include antacids, anti-diarrhoea medication, anti-sickness medication and antibiotic treatment.

Take our online consultation to see if you would be suitable for standby Travellers’ Diarrhoea treatment.