Preventing diarrhoea 

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

You should:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water 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 others
  • wash soiled clothing and bed linen separately from other clothes and at the highest temperature possible – for example, 60C or higher for linen – after first removing any poo into the toilet 
  • avoid returning to work or school until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea

You or your child should also avoid swimming pools for two weeks after the last episode of diarrhoea.

Read more about preventing germs spreading.

Food hygiene

Practising good food hygiene will help avoid getting diarrhoea as a result of food poisoning. You can do this by:

  • 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 use-by date

Read more about preventing food poisoning.

Rotavirus vaccination

Rotavirus is a virus that commonly causes diarrhoea in children. A vaccine that helps protect children against rotavirus is now part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule.

This vaccine is given as a liquid that's dropped into a baby's mouth. It's given in two doses, with the first given at two months and another at three months.

Read more about the rotavirus vaccine.

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 practise good food and water hygiene while abroad. 

If you're travelling in a country where standards of public hygiene are low, you should avoid:

  • tap water – water should be boiled for at least one minute if you're not sure whether it's safe to drink
  • ice cubes and ice cream
  • raw or undercooked seafood, meat, and chicken
  • foods that might contain uncooked eggs, such as mayonnaise
  • unpasteurised milk and dairy products, such as cheese
  • fruit and vegetables with damaged skins
  • salads

It's generally safe to eat or drink:

  • food that has been thoroughly cooked and is served piping hot
  • sealed bottles or cans of water, fizzy drinks, and alcohol
  • fruit and vegetables you peel yourself
  • tea or coffee

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

Read more about food and water abroad and travel vaccinations.

Page last reviewed: 26/11/2014

Next review due: 26/11/2016