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Treating and preventing diarrhoea
 
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Diarrhoea: prevention is the best medicine!

Had enough of rushing to the toilet? Sick of those painful stomach cramps? Simple precautions can be taken to prevent diarrhoea and limit the unpleasantness... Here are some of Doctissimo’s recommendations.

Preventing diarrhoea
© Thinkstock

The causes of diarrhoea are varied - viruses, parasites and antibiotics to name a few. So it’s quite difficult to give global recommendations for prevention when there are a variety of causes possible.

There are however, a couple of general tips for all types of diarrhoea that help to considerably reduce the risks:

  • wash your hands often
  • keep perishable foods in the fridge
  • do not eat food which is out of date

Folllowing this are some of our more specific recommendations for each type of diarrhoea.

Preventing infectious diarrhoea caused by viruses

Viral diarrhoea can be prevented by washing your hands regularly. Soap and water is enough, but you can also use alcohol-based anti-bacterial gels. Be sure to wash your hands before meals or after going to the toilet. Good hygiene is the most effective way of combating contamination.

Do remember that viruses are very contagious, so be careful of close contact, especially with children, to limit risks of transmission to other people.

Preventing infectious diarrhoea caused by bacteria or parasites

Preventing bacterial or parasitic diarrhoea means eating healthy food and drinking clean water. Like diarrhoea caused by viruses, it’s essential to wash your hands regularly.

Avoid drinking water from unknown or dubious sources, especially when abroad. If you really are too thirsty, you can sterilise the water available by boiling it for several minutes or using the appropriate water filters (Chamberland, Katadyn filters, etc.) or even adding purifying chemicals such as hydroclonazone or potassium permanganate.

Wash fruit before eating and always keep perishable foods in the fridge. Washing fruit and vegetables and sterilising water are effective against most bacteria, but not always against certain parasites. Also take care not to eat food after its 'Best Before' date.

Preventing traveller’s diarrhoea

When travelling, the precautions for avoiding diarrhoea are pretty much the same as for avoiding bacterial diarrhoea. Wash your hands regularly, don’t drink dubious water and don’t consume unpasteurised dairy products. There are other things you can do too...

Don’t eat raw or poorly-cooked foods (fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and seafood) in countries where sanitation and hygiene levels are an issue. Be wary of eating sorbets, ice cubes and cold buffets displayed on crushed ice. The water used is not always of drinking quality.

Also avoid drinking tap water: keep your mouth closed under the shower and use sterilised water to brush your teeth. If you don't have drinking water available, remember not to swallow when you rinse your mouth. You can sterilise water using the methods detailed above.

You can drink any bottled drinks that are opened (bottle seal broken for the first time) in front of you (water, sodas, etc.) and tea and coffee that are prepared with boiled water.

The safest foods are cooked dishes served hot (over 60°C), acidic drinks such as lemon, and dried foods or bread. High-sugar foods are also less risky.

Preventing diarrhoea caused by taking antibiotics

Twenty per cent of people who take antibiotics get diarrhoea as a side effect. It’s difficult to prevent diarrhoea which is caused by this type of intolerance. However, there are some general precautions you can take to limit the effects:

  • Only use antibiotics if they are really necessary and always with your doctor’s approval
  • Always respect the treatment duration and quantities prescribed to avoid overdoses 
  • Eat natural or bifidus yoghurts to build up your intestinal flora, often affected by antibiotics
  • Remember that taking antibiotic treatments too often can weaken the body’s natural resistance to microbes

Follow these few tips and you shouldn’t have to worry about tummy troubles anymore.

Posted 25.01.2011

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