diarrhoea klm health services

Diarrhoea is a common complaint among travellers. It usually lasts between two and four days and is of a mild nature. Still, diarrhea can spoil the fun during a trip quite a bit. The most significant risk with diarrhoea is dehydration.

How do you get it?

In most cases an acute case of diarrhoea is caused by a virus or bacteria infection. Consuming tainted or contaminated food or water can cause diarrhoea. Unfortunately, contaminated food can appear perfectly normal, smell good and can taste delicious!

How do you prevent it?

By washing your hands after every handshake and before every meal, you significantly reduce the risk of traveler’s diarrhoea. Furthermore, you should assume that the water is contaminated. So raw vegetables and lettuce can also be rinsed with contaminated water. Ice cubes are also often made from contaminated water. Dishes must be well-done and cooked. Peel all the fruit you eat yourself. In short: ‘Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it’. Also take a look at our ‘travel tips‘.


The treatment of diarrhoea with antibiotics is usually only necessary if the diarrhoea is more serious (when it is accompanied by fever, blood or mucus in the faeces, or if it hasn’t cleared up after a few days). So-called solid treatments may not be used if the diarrhoea is serious; a doctor should be consulted.

Solid treatments can be used for the milder traveller’s diarrhoea. Norit sometimes helps, but it inhibits the effect of anti-malaria medication and causes the faeces to darken, which can make it more difficult to see if there is any blood. There are also solid treatments that contain Loperamide; these are often very effective and can quickly clear up a straightforward case of diarrhoea. Ask for these at one of our Travel Clinics.

Avoid dehydration

With persistent diarrhoea there is a risk of dehydration because you lose a lot of fluids. This is particularly true with small children and the elderly because they can dehydrate very quickly. Telltale signs of dehydration are thirst, a dry mouth and not much urine, which is darker in colour. If the dehydration is advanced it will be accompanied by a rapid heartbeat, accelerated breathing and drowsiness. Consult a doctor if you notice one or more of these symptoms. Sufficient fluid intake is always important with diarrhoea. Take ORS with you, a special solution that helps to prevent dehydration.