Things to avoid
On the whole, South Africa has very good mains
water supplies. Don't drink tap water unless you are
certain it is from a safe mains supply.
Don't even brush your teeth in it or use it to
make ice. Instead, drink bottled water, fizzy
drinks, or hot coffee or tea made with freshly
Avoid unpasteurised milk or dairy products.
Avoid raw fruits and vegetables unless you can
peel them yourself.
Don't eat raw or rare meat and fish.
Don't eat meat or shellfish that isn't hot when
Don't eat food from street vendors.
Wash your hands after going to the toilet and
Don't swim in lakes or streams.
Keep having plenty to drink so you don't get
Medicines that slow down bowel movements can
make your symptoms better. They can also help get
rid of diarrhoea more quickly. They include
loperamide (Imodium) and co-phenotrope (Dymotil or
If your diarrhoea lasts longer than a few days,
or if you're too ill to eat or drink, or if you have
blood in your stools, it's important to see a
If your diarrhoea is caused by bacteria,
antibiotics can help.
If your diarrhoea is caused by a virus,
antibiotics won't work.
It's important to wash your hands thoroughly
after using the toilet and before preparing food. By
doing this, you may stop diarrhoea spreading to
Common causes of diarrhoea
You can catch Salmonella from
contaminated food or from another person who
This is the most common cause of
bacterial diarrhoea in Britain. You catch it
by eating undercooked meat (especially
poultry), by handling raw meat or poultry,
or by drinking unpasteurised milk or
untreated water. You can also catch it from
pets that have diarrhoea. It can
occasionally be passed from person to
Diarrhoea caused by Shigella is also
called bacillary dysentery. You can catch
Shigella from drinking contaminated water or
from eating food that has been washed in
contaminated water (like salad or fruit).
You can also catch it from another person.
Shigella is one cause of travellers'
E. coli (Escherichia coli)
These bacteria live naturally in the
intestines of people and animals. They're
usually harmless. However, some types of E.
coli can make you ill. You can catch E. coli
from contaminated food, from other people
who have E. coli, or through contact with
infected animals. E. coli is the most common
cause of travellers' diarrhoea.
Viruses are another cause of diarrhoea.
Diarrhoea caused by a virus often breaks out
in families, schools or communities.
Antibiotics don't work against viruses.