Diarrhoea - Prevention 

Preventing diarrhoea 

To prevent the spread of infections that cause diarrhoea, you should always maintain high standards of hygiene.

For example, you should always:

  • wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet and before eating or preparing food 
  • clean the toilet, including the handle and the seat, with disinfectant after each bout of diarrhoea 
  • avoid sharing towels, flannels, cutlery or utensils with other household members 
  • avoid returning to work or school until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea

If it is suspected or confirmed that the parasite cryptosporidium caused the diarrhoea, you or your child should avoid using a swimming pool for two weeks after the last episode of diarrhoea.

Food hygiene

Practicing good food hygiene will help avoid getting diarrhoea as a result of food poisoning. Some ways you can do this include:

  • regularly washing your hands, surfaces and utensils with hot, soapy water 
  • never storing raw and cooked foods together 
  • making sure food is kept properly refrigerated 
  • always cooking your food thoroughly 
  • never eating food past its sell-by date

Read more about preventing food poisoning.

Travellers' diarrhoea

There is no vaccination that can protect you from all possible causes of travellers' diarrhoea. The best way to avoid it is to practice good food and water hygiene while abroad. 

Preventative antibiotics are not recommended if you are fit and healthy. If you have a serious health condition that could be made worse if you get diarrhoea, your GP may consider prescribing preventative antibiotics. Speak to your GP if this applies to you.

If you are travelling in a country where standards of public hygiene are low and there is a risk of water contamination, for example some African or Asian countries, avoid the following food and drink:

  • tap water 
  • fruit juices (if sold by a street vendor) 
  • ice cream or ice cubes 
  • shellfish 
  • eggs 
  • salads 
  • raw or undercooked meat 
  • peeled fruit 
  • mayonnaise
  • sauces

Food and drink that is generally safe to eat includes:

  • sealed bottled water produced by a recognised international manufacturer 
  • freshly cooked food, such as soup or stir-fry 
  • canned food
  • food in sealed packs 
  • fresh bread 
  • unpeeled fruit 
  • tea or coffee 
  • alcohol

If you are planning a trip abroad, check health advice for the countries you will be travelling to. You can do this by visiting the NHS Fit for Travel and the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) websites.

Read more about food and water abroad and travel vaccinations.

Page last reviewed: 28/11/2012

Next review due: 28/11/2014


How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 81 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating


The 2 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

MARGANNGET said on 03 February 2011

I have had diarrhoea,nausea.and pain for 5 days - after reading the information I telephoned my GP who has arranged tests.
This information from NHS Choices has been most helpful.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

vlc said on 30 August 2010

Young children are very prone to diarrhoea from public swimming pools. Young children tend to swallow the water and become ill as a result within two days.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

How to wash fruit and vegetables

How to store, wash and prepare fruit and vegetables to prevent food poisoning, including E. coli

How to store food safely

Proper storage of food can reduce the risk of food poisoning. These tips will help keep your food safe to eat

Food and water safety abroad

Many illnesses, such as travellers’ diarrhoea, are caught from contaminated food and water. Find out how to protect yourself