Bacterial or viral infections are normally the cause of severe diarrhoea.
Viral diarrhoea normally lasts between three days and one week. You catch viral diarrhoea by direct contact. You can prevent viral diarrhoea by washing your hands regularly with soap and water (especially after going to the bathroom, sneezing or coughing, before eating, after any contact with animals, or any contact with other people who have fallen ill with diarrhoea themselves). If it is not possible to wash your hands with soap and water, you should use hand sanitiser.
Bacterial diarrhoea, sometimes also known as traveller’s diarrhoea, normally comes from ingesting food or drink that has been contaminated. It can be more serious than viral diarrhoea sometimes causing symptoms such as cramps, very frequent bowel movements, and often this comes with a fever and vomiting.
You can prevent it by sticking to bottled or sterilised water (even for things like cleaning your teeth, making ice cubes or rinsing fruit before you eat it.)
You can also prevent it by being careful about what you eat. Avoid salads (they might have been washed in contaminated water). Be careful when eating dairy products (they could be unpasteurised). Only eat food that is very hot and hasn’t been left out at room temperature. Be particular when eating food from street vendors and markets – hot food should have been kept hot and cold food should have been in a fridge.
Finally, you can also reduce your chances of getting traveller’s diarrhoea by cooking carefully. Always rinse fruit and vegetables with bottled water before cooking or eating them. Don’t eat raw egg. Keep cooked and uncooked food separate. Clean the worktops and utensils thoroughly and don’t prepare food if you already have diarrhoea.
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