Travellers’ Diarrhea

Travellers’ Diarrhea (TD) is the most common illness that affects travellers. It is caused by various bacteria, parasites, and viruses that are present in contaminated food and water.

What are the symptoms of Travellers’ Diarrhea

Some cases of TD may be relatively mild, but potential complications can include abdominal pain, nausea, fever, dehydration, and fluid and electrolyte imbalances. These complications can be very serious in children, the elderly, and people with chronic diseases.

How can I get Travellers’ Diarrhea?

The most common cause of TD is bacteria, including E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, and Campylobacter. TD can also be caused by parasites and by viruses such as norovirus and rotavirus. TD can be passed on to you if you drink or eat:

  • Contaminated water or beverages containing contaminated ice cubes.
  • Fruits and vegetables that have been washed in contaminated water.
  • Undercooked food.
  • Hot or cold food that has been stored or served at incorrect temperatures.

Where can I get Travellers’ Diarrhea?

TD is the most common illness to affect those who travel to developing countries. The risk is highest in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Depending on the season when you travel, your probability of getting TD may be as high as 60 percent

What vaccines are available for Travellers’ Diarrhea?

Dukoral® is an oral vaccine that is approximately 67 percent effective for preventing TD caused by E. coli. It is not effective against other organisms or viruses that may cause TD.

Dukoral® is also 85 percent effective in preventing Cholera, although Cholera is far less common than TD.

For more info on Dukoral® click here.

How many doses will I need?

Adults and children over two years of age can take Dukoral® to prevent TD caused by E. coli. You need two doses, at least one week apart. Because Dukoral® takes one week after the final dose to be effective, you should take your first dose at least two weeks before you travel.

Side effects are infrequent, but may include mild abdominal discomfort and slight diarrhea.

You should not take Dukoral® if you have a fever, acute gastrointestinal disease, a disease of the immune system, are pregnant, or are allergic to Dukoral® or its components.

Will I need a booster?

Dukoral works to prevent traveller’s diarrhea for three months. After that, a booster dose is needed. If you took your last dose more than five years ago, you will need to repeat the full series.

How can I prevent Travellers’ Diarrhea?

If you are travelling to areas where tap water may not be safe to drink and bottled beverages are not available, be prepared to purify your own drinking water. You can boil your water or use filters or water purification drops.

Watch what you eat. The rule of thumb is “boil it, peel it, cook it, or forget it!”

For more information on preventing TD, check our information sheets Watch What You Eat and Watch What you Drink.

What is the treatment for Travellers’ Diarrhea?

TD normally resolves on its own within a few days. Drink plenty of fluids, but avoid alcohol, caffeine, and dairy products, as these may make your symptoms worse.

You lose fluids, salts, and minerals when you have Travellers’ Diarrhea and you may become dehydrated. Children and older adults are especially prone to severe dehydration. The best way to replace lost fluids is with an oral rehydration solution (ORS). These solutions contain water and mineral salts to replenish fluids and electrolytes along with glucose or another simple carbohydrate to enhance absorption.

Before you leave for your trip, talk to your travel medicine specialist about the appropriate medications and preventative supplies to take with you

Bismuth subsalicylate (e.g. Pepto Bismal) or loperamide (e.g. Imodium) can help to manage the symptoms of TD. For severe symptoms, including three or more loose stools within eight hours, you may need a three- to five-day course of antibiotics.

Find out more information on this illness from our Vancouver Travel Clinic or any of our other 18 Travel Clinic locations.