Travellers' Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea can upset your rhythm, especially when you are on holiday.

Irish residents make more than 6 million trips abroad each year, with an increasing numbers heading for the tropics1. 20- 50% of overseas travellers will suffer from diarrhoea on their trip. This risk increases in more exotic countries2. This makes diarrhoea the most common health condition facing holidaymakers. To help avoid travellers diarrhoea, read on.

Causes of Travellers’ Diarrhoea

The most common cause of Travellers’ diarrhoea is eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water, causing a bacterial infection. When you go abroad, you’re also exposed to new types of bacteria that can affect your body. You can also experience diarrhoea when abroad from eating unfamiliar rich and spicy foods, or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

How to treat it

There are a few things you can do if you get diarrhoea. Health experts recommend the following:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, or try an oral hydration sachet
  • Try not to drink fizzy drinks, rich or spicy foods
  • As your appetite increases, eat simple baked foods
  • Take an anti-diarrhoeal treatment
  • Contact a doctor if your symptoms last longer than 24 hours, you develop a temperature of over 38°C or have blood or mucus in your stool
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Preventing Travellers’ Diarrhoea

Eating contaminated food and drinking contaminated water are the two most common causes of Travellers’ diarrhoea. So here are some tips on how to avoid them.

Top tips to avoid drinking contaminated water:

  • Instead of using tap water to drink or to brush your teeth, try bottled water
  • Avoid drinks topped up with ice cubes made from tap water
  • Drinking bottled or canned beverages shouldn’t a problem
  • If you’re going swimming, try not to swallow any water

Top tips to avoid eating contaminated food:

  • Try to make sure your food has been cooked properly
  • Don’t leave food lying around on tables or sideboards
  • Wash your hands with soap before eating
  • Try to avoid raw foods washed in tap water
  • Try to avoid uncooked meats or seafood
  • Try to avoid food from street vendors


2. Steffen R. Epidemiological studies of travellers’ diarrhea, severe gastrointestinal infections and cholera. Rev Infect Dis 1986; 8: Suppl 2:S122-S130)