Travellers' diarrhoea typically occurs during the first week of travel. The Travel Clinic at Singapore General Hospital shares its symptoms and treatments.
Travel Clinic at
Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of
SingHealth group, shares some of the symptoms of travellers' diarrhoea and its treatments.
Signs and symptoms of travellers' diarrhoea
Travellers’ diarrhoea is usually a short illness and lasts for a few days. However, in a small number of people, it may persist for more than a month. It typically occurs during the first week of travel. Symptoms include:
- Passing three or more loose stools in a 24-hour period
- Passing numerous unformed stools accompanied by abdominal pain
Treatment of travellers’ diarrhoea
Oral rehydration powders and fluids: A mild case of travellers’ diarrhoea can be treated with oral rehydration powders mixed with clean drinking water to restore the electrolyte balance in the body. Safe fluids are usually all that is needed for most cases of mild, self-limiting diarrhoea. Milk and dairy products should be avoided for several days after recovery.
Loperamide: When frequent diarrhoea is inconvenient, for instance during long journeys, the drug loperamide may be used to relieve the symptoms. However, this drug should be used with caution. It should not be taken by people suffering from active inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis or if fever or bloody diarrhoea is present. It is also not suitable for young children.
Antibiotics: A short course of antibiotics may be considered to treat moderate to severe travellers’ diarrhoea if patients are unable to see a doctor. Studies have shown that the use of antibiotics to treat acute diarrhoea in travellers may be beneficial, with sufferers usually being cured within 72 hours.
However, antibiotics will not cure all forms of diarrhoea, e.g. diarrhoea caused by viruses such as the norovirus. Travellers should see a doctor immediately if they have taken antibiotics and their symptoms do not improve within a day or two.
Prompt medical attention: Patients, particularly the elderly, children and those with pre-existing conditions who have diarrhoea with high fever, or blood and mucous in their bowels, need prompt medical attention.
The SGH Travel Clinic is run by specialists from the Department of Infectious Diseases. It is a designated Yellow Fever Centre. The team of doctors and nurses will offer comprehensive travel advice and country-specific recommendations prior to your trip.
See page 1 to find out about the
causes of travellers' diarrhoea.