Can Bali Belly Kill You

Welcome to the captivating world of Bali, an idyllic paradise known for its stunning beaches, lush landscapes, and vibrant culture. But amidst the beauty lies a potential threat that has left many travelers wondering - can Bali belly kill you?

Peter Veenstra

9/21/20234 min read

What is Bali Belly?

Bali belly, also known as traveler's diarrhea, is a common ailment that affects many tourists visiting this tropical haven. It is often caused by consuming contaminated food or water, leading to unpleasant symptoms such as stomach cramps, nausea, and frequent trips to the bathroom.

The culprit behind the majority of Bali belly cases is a bacterium called Escherichia coli (E. coli). This bacterium can be found in the local water supply, as well as in food that has been prepared under unsanitary conditions. The warm climate and high humidity in Bali create an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive, making it more likely for travelers to contract Bali belly.

Causes of Bali Belly

Bali belly is primarily caused by consuming food or water that has been contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Poor hygiene practices, such as improper handwashing or using unclean utensils, can also contribute to the spread of the infection.

In Bali, street food is a popular choice for many travelers. While the flavors may be enticing, the hygiene standards may not always be up to par. Street vendors often lack access to clean water for washing hands and utensils, increasing the risk of contamination.

Additionally, swimming in unclean water, such as in pools or rivers, can also expose travelers to bacteria and parasites that can cause Bali belly.

Symptoms of Bali Belly

The symptoms of Bali belly can range from mild to severe, depending on the individual and the severity of the infection. Common symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and fever.

In most cases, the symptoms of Bali belly will resolve on their own within a few days. However, it is essential to stay hydrated and replenish lost fluids to prevent dehydration, which can be a serious complication.

Is Bali Belly Life-Threatening?

While most cases of Bali belly are mild and self-limiting, severe cases can be a cause for concern. Dehydration is the biggest risk, particularly for young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems.

If left untreated, severe dehydration can lead to electrolyte imbalances, organ failure, and even death. It is crucial to recognize the signs of dehydration, such as excessive thirst, dry mouth, decreased urine output, and dizziness, and seek medical attention if these symptoms occur.

Complications of Bali Belly

In addition to dehydration, there are other potential complications that can arise from Bali belly. These include kidney problems, such as urinary tract infections or kidney stones, as well as reactive arthritis, a condition characterized by joint pain and swelling.

In rare cases, severe bacterial or parasitic infections can lead to more serious conditions, such as sepsis or hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). These complications are rare but highlight the importance of taking precautions to prevent Bali belly.

Prevention of Bali Belly

Preventing Bali belly begins with practicing good hygiene and making wise food and water choices. Here are some tips to minimize your risk:

  1. Stick to bottled water: Avoid tap water, ice cubes, and drinks made with tap water. Stick to bottled or boiled water for drinking and brushing your teeth.

  2. Eat at reputable establishments: Choose restaurants and food stalls that have good hygiene practices. Look for busy places with high turnover to ensure the food is fresh.

  3. Wash your hands thoroughly: Use soap and clean water to wash your hands before eating or preparing food, after using the bathroom, and after touching surfaces that may be contaminated.

  4. Avoid street food with questionable hygiene standards: While street food can be tempting, it's important to be cautious. Look for vendors who practice good hygiene, such as wearing gloves and maintaining a clean cooking area.

  5. Use hand sanitizer: When soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean your hands.

Treatment for Bali Belly

If you do contract Bali belly, the primary focus of treatment is to manage symptoms and prevent dehydration. Here are some measures you can take:

  1. Rest and stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids, such as bottled water, oral rehydration solutions, clear broths, and herbal teas, to replace lost fluids and prevent dehydration.

  2. Avoid certain foods and drinks: Steer clear of spicy, greasy, and dairy-based foods, as they can worsen symptoms. Also, avoid alcohol and caffeine, as they can contribute to dehydration.

  3. Over-the-counter medications: Anti-diarrheal medications, such as loperamide, can help alleviate diarrhea. However, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional before taking any medications, as they may not be suitable for everyone.

Home Remedies for Bali Belly

In addition to medical treatment, there are several home remedies that may help ease the symptoms of Bali belly. These include:

  1. Ginger: Ginger has natural anti-inflammatory properties and can help soothe an upset stomach. Sip on ginger tea or chew on ginger candies to alleviate nausea and promote digestion.

  2. Probiotics: Probiotics can help restore the balance of good bacteria in your gut. Look for supplements or foods containing Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium strains to aid in digestion and support your immune system.

  3. Peppermint: Peppermint has calming properties that can help relax the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract and relieve stomach cramps. Drink peppermint tea or use peppermint oil diluted in a carrier oil to massage your abdomen.

When to Seek Medical Help for Bali Belly

In most cases, Bali belly will resolve on its own within a few days. However, there are certain situations where seeking medical help is necessary. These include:

  1. Severe dehydration: If you are unable to keep fluids down or if you experience signs of severe dehydration, such as dizziness, rapid heartbeat, or decreased urine output, seek medical attention immediately.

  2. Blood in stool or high fever: If you notice blood in your stool or if you develop a high fever, it could be a sign of a more serious infection. Consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and treatment.

  3. Persistent or worsening symptoms: If your symptoms persist or worsen after a few days, it's important to consult a healthcare professional for further assessment and treatment.


Bali belly is an unpleasant but common occurrence for many travelers visiting Bali. While most cases are mild and resolve on their own, severe cases can lead to dehydration and other complications. By practicing good hygiene, making wise food and water choices, and seeking medical help when necessary, you can minimize your risk of falling prey to Bali belly. So don't let the fear of Bali belly dampen your island adventures. Explore Bali's beauty with confidence, knowing that you are well-prepared to keep yourself healthy and enjoy all that this tropical paradise has to offer!