Updated: Mar 6
Diarrhoea and Vomiting Abroad
Diarrhoea and vomiting on holiday abroad.
Whether caused by bacteria, parasites or a virus, nothing is more efficient at ruining your holiday than diarrhoea and vomiting. Being sick abroad and unwell on holiday is miserable. The symptoms themselves can last up to a number of days, and leave you feeling drained and exhausted. It’s not only an embarrassing inconvenience and a waste of money when you could sit in your own toilet at home for free, it can be quite dangerous too. Dehydration after even just one day of diarrhoea and/or vomiting is quite possible, particularly coupled with the fact your likely to be in a hotter climate. The loss of important bodily electrolytes can cause liver and kidney damage amongst other pretty nasty conditions and particular caution should be given to those over 65 and less than 5 years old.
A huge number of Brits can no doubt share some really delightful stories of their own gastro experiences - I have a particularly nasty one about a toddler who didn’t have his own aeroplane seat and a 14hr direct fight to London from Kuala Lumpur sitting on my lap - needless to say its a relatively common and grim experience for even the occasional traveller.
There are a few steps you can take to minimise your chances of contracting gastroenteritis however
Wash your hands regularly, particularly before eating food and after using the bathroom.
If food doesn’t appear properly cooked, don’t eat it.
Drink bottled water when abroad.
Wash fruits and vegetables before eating.
Avoid ice cubes in drinks
Consider salad will likely be washed in tap water
Don’t leave uneaten food lying around to consume later.
Picture taken in Tenerife yesterday - how many people have touched this fruit?
Unfortunately, sometimes it just comes down to bad luck. If your food is prepared by a chef carrying E.Coli or salmonella, or your food is washed in contaminated water, there isn’t a great deal you can do about it and the best thing you can now do is to try and speed up your recovery.
So what can you do if you get gastro abroad?
Drink, drink, drink. Do not risk dehydration and help to flush the bacteria out - alcohol does not count!!!
Rehydration salts such as Dioralyte can help to replace essential fluids and electrolytes and are safe for children also- prepare with bottled water only.
Imodium can help stop diarrhoea, but does not treat the cause. Nurses particularly often feel it is better to let diarrhoea run its course as it is your bodies way of trying to flush out bacteria/parasites. However, I think the likelihood of Imodium causing any negative effects (possibly constipation) is low, and if it helps to prevent an embarrassing public incident then go for it. I personally would only take before a flight, or long car journey.
Continue to eat, but keep food bland and basic. Toast, crackers, rice, potatoes, pasta (carbs are your friend) and sufficiently cooked chicken are safe bets. Steer clear of spicy food, dairy and other rich meals. Eat small and often.
Regular paracetamol will help bring down your temperature and ease any body aches. I would advise avoiding ibuprofen unless completely necessary and you have managed to keep food down.
Buscopan is an antispasmodic and will help to ease the horrendous abdominal cramping often experienced with gastro.
Anti sickness tablets such as Avomine (promethazine) can help treat nausea and has the added benefit of causing drowsiness and I am a firm believer that sleep is healing.
Ensure good personal hygiene during diarrhoea episodes, urinary infections due to cross contamination, and local irritation/burning is not much fun. Shower regularly and wash hands even more often. Alcohol gel in not sufficient for all causes of gastroenteritis but if no soap and water is available, it is better than nothing.
I know a doctor who swears by a litre of whisky and a big bag of crisps as being the miracle cure...I however remain sceptical
So when to seek further medical help/advice?
Gastroenteritis can last as little as 30 minutes but continue for days. If symptoms persist more than 72 hours you may require further medical advice.
Unable to keep down fluids due to vomiting.
Passing of blood or mucus.
Severe pain could indicate something more serious.
Fainting or severe dizzy episodes/collapse
Reduced urine output, or not passing any urine at all.
Any existing serious medical conditions such as cancer, a weakened immune system, heart or kidney problems. Diarrhoea and vomiting in children can also be self managed to an extent, but please read labels carefully for any medication as dosages and suitability of medications can be very age dependent. Be observant for a reduction in wet nappies, any non-blanching rashes (use the glass test), pale or mottling of the skin, high fevers, cold hands and feet, increased irritability, drowsiness/unresponsive episodes.
I have found it is best to plan ahead and take medications from home as trying to find foreign named versions of commonly used meds is a nightmare. A small kit of anti-sickness tablets, Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Buscopan and Dioralyte is sensible.
Doctors say 4 out of 5 people suffer with diarrhoea
That means one guy actually likes it!!
If you have found this article helpful, I would love to hear about it, drop a comment below. Please feel free to share the wisdom!