Travellers’ diarrhoea is a common and uncomfortable problem. It is caused by eating or drinking food or water which has been contaminated with germs. Almost always, the illness lasts a couple of days only. The following information will help you minimise the risk of developing diarrhoea and will give you advice on what to do if you should develop this problem. Very simple precautions greatly reduce the risk of travellers’ diarrhoea.
- Always wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet and before eating.
- Never drink tap water unless it is boiled or purified first. (There is iodine solution in your medical kit for this purpose).
- Use bottled water or other pre-packaged drinks eg: bottles or cans of soft drink, and hot drinks such as tea and coffee.
- Refuse ice in drinks, as it may have been made with contaminated water.
- Avoid salads.
- Always peel fruit (or wash it thoroughly in purified water).
- Choose restaurants where the staff, surroundings and food appear clean.
- Choose restaurants where there are plenty of people eating, as news of a source of illness usually results in less patronage.
- Ask for lukewarm food to be replaced with fresh, hot food.
- Never eat raw seafood.
WHEN DIARRHOEA STRIKES:
Diarrhoea usually starts suddenly with stomach cramps, loose frequent bowel motions, feeling tired or weak and sometimes vomiting. Most cases resolve within 2-3 days without treatment. However, there are two important points you must adhere to:
- Maintain or increase your fluid intake (brand name drinks, Gastrolyte mix or 1litre of boiled water with half level teaspoon of table salt and eight level teaspoons of sugar.
- Restrict your food intake immediately. Whilst you have diarrhoea avoid fatty foods, milk or dairy products, rich or spicy foods and seasoned meat. Dry biscuits and bread are a good source of energy. AVOID alcohol – it will dehydrate you and could irritate your bowel.
Imodium – will slow the diarrhoea. Their use is recommended when you do not have ready access to toilet facilities (eg: long road jouneys) or if you are to stay in attendance at important meetings. They should not be used for longer than two days.
(Alternative drugs are Lomotil or Codeine Phosphate).
Antibiotics – are used in the treatment of diarrhoea that persists after 2-3 days. Noroxin is available in the BHP Medical Kit for this purpose. Tinidazole (or Fasigyn) is also within the BHP kit if Noroxin does not work after 3 days. You should also obtain medical advice at this time.
YOU SHOULD SEEK URGENT MEDICAL ATTENTION IN THE FOLLOWING CIRCUMSTANCES:
- if blood or mucous appears in your stools;
- if you develop a high fever;
- if stomach/abdominal pain is severe and persists beyond eight hours;
- if diarrhoea continues beyond three days.