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Travellers’ Diarrhoea

Travellers’ diarrhoea is a condition which commonly affects travellers to certain high risk countries in Africa, Asia, and South America. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria, and protozoa, and is usually transmitted via contaminated foods and water.

About the medication

  • Dosage: The usual dose of Azithromycin to treat travellers’ diarrhoea is 500 mg per day.
  • How to take:  Take one 500mg tablet every day after symptoms start for 3 days.
  • Side effects: As most medications, Azithromycin can cause side effects in some patients. Possible side effects include nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea.
  •  Who can take it? Azithromycin is a prescription only medication, so a healthcare professional needs to assess whether you can use it. It may not suitable for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or for people taking medications that could interact with antibiotics.
  •  Additional precautions: Take Azithromycin exactly as you’ve been instructed. Even if you have taken tablets with you, you should also take precautions to avoid food and waterborne diseases.


Course 3 Days
Pack size 3 x 500mg tablets
Price £30

About travellers’ diarrhoea

Travellers’ diarrhoea is a common complaint, which can be caused by bacteria, viruses and protozoa. Many travellers experience diarrhoea at some point during their travels when visiting high risk countries in South America, Africa, or Asia. Most diagnosed cases of travellers’ diarrhoea are caused by bacteria, and they are transmitted via contaminated food or drink.

Symptoms usually clear up without treatment. However, if you experience severe symptoms while travelling, or your symptoms don’t improve within three days, you need to see a doctor.

Travellers who are planning to visit high risk regions for travellers’ diarrhoea, and who will be unable to access medical help during their trip, may be advised to take medication with them in order to be able to treat the condition if they catch it.

Travellers’ diarrhoea treatment

Most patients with travellers’ diarrhoea find that they get better without treatment. During your travel health consultation, the nurse or pharmacist will assess whether it’s advisable to take treatment for travellers’ diarrhoea with you. This will depend on your medical history, as well as the countries you are travelling to and what you have planned during your trip.

While the majority of cases of travellers’ diarrhoea are caused by bacteria, it is important to note that bacteria is not the only cause of travellers’ diarrhoea, and these antibiotics will be ineffective against diarrhoea caused by viral infections or protozoa. There is no treatment that can guarantee successful treatment of travellers’ diarrhoea from every possible cause.

How is the treatment taken?

If you need to take it, treatment for travellers’ diarrhoea comes in the form of tablets that you take once a day for 3 days. Generally, treatment should be started when there is no medical help available and if bowel movements become very frequent and watery for more than 3 days. A Superdrug nurse or pharmacist can advise you more on this during a free consultation.

Even if you speak to a travel nurse or pharmacist, you should also see a doctor as soon as possible to get diagnosed. There are a range of conditions which can cause similar symptoms as travellers’ diarrhoea which may require treatment to prevent complications. Some other infections that can cause diarrhoea include cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis A.

Treating travellers’ diarrhoea without antibiotics

It is important that you drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Rehydration salts can be helpful to ensure you remain hydrated and maintain the correct balance of sugars and salts despite your symptoms.

You can try using over the counter diarrhoea remedies such as loperamide or Bismuth subsalicylate to reduce your symptoms where toilet facilities may be an issue.

If you experience traveller’s diarrhoea lasting beyond 3 days and you haven’t been prescribed an antibiotic treatment, or you have very severe symptoms, you should see a doctor without delay. If your symptoms are mild, they may resolve without treatment.

What symptoms does travellers’ diarrhoea cause?

The bacteria that cause travellers’ diarrhoea cause you to pass stools more frequently than normal, and your stool may be unusually watery.

You may find that you need to visit the toilet very urgently. If you notice any blood in your stools, have a high fever, or are getting dehydrated it’s really important you seek medical attention as soon as possible.

In addition, you may experience other digestive problems such as nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps.


In order to prevent travellers’ diarrhoea and other food and waterborne diseases, you need to practise food and water safety.

  • The following will help prevent infection:
  • Make sure any cooked food you buy has been cooked through and is piping hot.
  • Avoid raw foods or wash them well with clean, safe water.
  • Peel fruits and vegetables or wash them with clean, safe water before use.
  • Drink bottled water; If unsure whether water is safe to drink, boil it or purify it before use. When buying bottled water, ensure the security seal is intact.
  • Wash your hands regularly, with water and soap.


For further advice read our guide on food and water safety.

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