Traveller's diarrhoea

What is traveller's diarrhoea and what can you do about it?

Traveller’s diarrhoea’ is the term used to describe diarrhoea experienced by people travelling to foreign countries. It is most common in young adults and can affect up to 60% of travellers. High-risk destinations include Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, and the condition is most likely to occur in people travelling from a developed country to developing countries. In the majority of cases, traveller’s diarrhoea can last for 5-8 days and can, therefore, limit your holiday experience as well as become an added health concern. As diarrhoea often leads to dehydration, it is important to rehydrate the body by drinking plenty of fluids (preferably water, fruit juice or soup) and avoiding dairy, coffee and alcohol.

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Causes and Prevention

In most occurrences, traveller's diarrhoea occurs due to a bacteria infection from contaminated food or water in a foreign environment. To reduce the risk of developing traveller's diarrhoea, there are simple precautions travellers can take, mainly avoiding drinking tap water, ice, unpasteurised milk and dairy. Certain foods can also present a risk of transmitting bacteria, including raw or undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables.


In general, the symptoms of traveller's diarrhoea present within the first week or two of being in a foreign environment. They usually begin abruptly and can either occur during travel or soon after returning home. The main symptom is an increase in the frequency of bowel movements (typically three or more loose stools in 24hrs) which can also be accompanied by other symptoms including cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, bloating and loss of appetite.

Ciprofloxacin Treatment

Ciprofloxacin is an antibiotic that effectively treats enteric bacterial infections by preventing the reproduction of bacteria. It is therefore not used in cases of diarrhoea caused by a virus or parasite. It is generally accepted that a sudden onset of traveller's diarrhoea is caused by a bacterial infection and can be treated accordingly using ciprofloxacin.

The Ciprofloxacin 500mg tablets should be taken twice a day at equally spaced intervals for up to 3 days, and it is also advised to drink plenty of water while taking this medication to avoid developing kidney problems. Ciprofloxacin should be taken in circumstances where there is no immediate medical assistance available. It is possible to request a private prescription in advance of travelling if it is assumed that there will be no access to a doctor. DrFelix also offers other antibiotics like Azithromycin and Loperamide to treat traveller's diarrhoea.

Ciprofloxacin Side Effects

The most common side effects of using ciprofloxacin are feeling or being sick and diarrhoea, although these only affect 1 in 10 users. There are no known interactions between alcohol and ciprofloxacin.

Rare side effects of this medication include, but are not limited to; bloody or black stools, changes in urination, chest pain or discomfort, chills or fever, dizziness or light-headedness when standing suddenly, and muscle pain or stiffness. It can also cause swelling or tearing of a tendon, especially in the Achilles tendon of the heel, which is more likely in people over 60, those taking steroid medication, or people who have had a kidney, liver or lung transplant.

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