Travellers’ diarrhea

Everything you need to know about travellers’ diarrhea

Who hasn’t heard of travellers’ diarrhea? It’s also known as “Bali Belly” and is among the most frequent complaints afflicting all sorts of globetrotters in some of the most travelled destinations. While it’s usually benign, it is very uncomfortable and can really wreck your stay. To make sure your holiday is thoroughly pleasant, follow the guidelines we offer here.

What is travellers’ diarrhea?

Travellers’ diarrhea can be caused by bacteria, a virus or a parasite which, once ingested, brings on very unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms. People come down with it after having ingested contaminated food or water in areas where poor hygiene allow these microorganisms to flourish.

What are the symptoms of travellers’ diarrhea?

Symptoms can vary but usually start with an urgent need to use the toilet, fever, nausea, vomiting accompanied by severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

How to prevent travellers’ diarrhea?

  • Avoid eating food that hasn’t been cooked, boiled and peeled. This is a basic rule of thumb to help you avoid gastrointestinal problems while travelling.
  • Wash your hands often and use an alcohol-based solution if you don’t have access to soap and clean water.
  • Avoid drinking water from the tap and drink only bottled water or boiled and/or treated water. Use a sanitary water supply even for brushing your teeth.
  • Avoid drinks with ice cubes unless you’re certain they were made with purified water.
  • Avoid foods that have been left at room temperature.
  • Make sure your kids don’t swallow water while bathing.

How to treat Bali Belly?

The first thing to remember is that in most cases of travellers’ diarrhea, the affliction isn’t serious and will dissipate on its own. So, don’t despair!

  • Among healthy adults, the most common complication is dehydration and it is very important to watch out for it and keep hydrated. This is vitally important and don’t hesitate to use rehydration formulas available at most pharmacies.
  • When you see your health care provider before starting your trip, a doctor or nurse may prescribe or recommend an anti-diarrheal medicine as well as an antibiotic in case of very severe diarrhea. Remember to only use these strictly following your health care provider’s instructions.

When should I see a doctor?

For adults, don’t hesitate to consult a doctor if you are feeling dehydrated or your health deteriorates. If you have health problems, make sure to follow the pre-departure advice you got from your health care provider. If you didn’t have a pre-travel consultation, go see a local doctor.

For children, consult a doctor immediately if there is blood in the stool, fever or persistent vomiting. Dehydration in children requires immediate care, yet the signs of dehydration can be difficult to notice in a child. Make sure you talk to your health care provider before leaving to be able to recognize symptoms for your child’s age bracket.

Before booking a travel consultation, talk to Blue Cross travel assistance about your plans. They can direct you to an appropriate and reliable clinic.

This may seem like a lot of precautions for a single trip, but it is sound advice on developing habits that will help keep your health while you’re on your well-deserved vacation!

Gabrielle Asselin



Travellers's diarrhea