'My advice to travellers is to watch what you eat and drink' 

Stuart Cole caught giardiasis while on holiday in South America.

“I’d just spent four months travelling in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela. Judging by the time the symptoms came on, I think I probably picked it up either from swimming in rivers in Colombia, where I'd been trekking to the Lost City, or from drinking contaminated water.

"Two weeks after I got back home I started getting a bloated stomach and diarrhoea. I saw a GP, who thought it could be irritable bowel syndrome. They told me to stop eating wheat. I did that, but six weeks later I was no better, so I went back to the doctor. When I mentioned that I might have picked up something while travelling, I was referred to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases. They did blood tests and took urine and stool samples. They told me that I had giardiasis and gave me some antibiotics. The first course didn’t work, so I was given a second course, which seemed to sort things out.

"The giardiasis has left me with a scar on my intestine, and I have to watch what I eat. If I eat a lot of wheat – things like bread or pasta – I get bloated quite quickly.

"My advice to other travellers would be to watch what you eat and drink. I had been fairly careful up to the point when we went to the Lost City, which is in the mountains, four days away from civilisation. But on that trek we relied on the guides to make sure that the water was safe. It was open-fire cooking and I wasn’t being so careful about what I was eating and drinking. My other tip is to make sure you tell your GP if you've been travelling. I didn’t at first, and that delayed diagnosis." 

Picture of Stuart Cole

Page last reviewed: 02/01/2015

Next review due: 02/01/2017