Tips for Preventing Food Poisoning While TravelingAugust 21, 2018
-Words by Arizton Pamplona from VentureSeekr-
Surviving the battle against Delhi Belly or Montezuma's Revenge.
Going out of your comfort zone abroad helps improve confidence and courage. But your adventurousness may leave you with stomach cramps and nausea on the bathroom floor. This cuts down on activity time and can ruin adventures planned months in advance. I’ve personally lost the battle against “Bali Belly” (the Indonesian variation), spending almost a week between my bed and the bathroom. As with your valuables on an adventure, you should protect your health as well. But what’s the best way to avoid food-borne illness while still having a fulfilling experience? Here are some tips to help prevent food poisoning whilst adventuring.
Scrub, Scrub, Scrub
Your hands might get rough and rugged after a few adventures. But always remember general hygiene practices before every meal. Hand sanitizer is convenient and effective while eating on the go. Otherwise, wash your hands with soapy water before you eat. This advice holds up for young adventurers to the more seasoned ones.
Harmful bacteria is the most common transmitter of traveler's diarrhea and other symptoms. This is a two-punch combo: your body might not be used to unfamiliar bacteria; or your destination might not follow super high food safety standards. When adventuring:
- Make sure any meat on your plate is cooked 100%. Germs found in raw meat are especially nasty. Raw food kept at room temperature can land a devastating blow to your health and journey.
- Opt for fruits you can peel. Fruits aren't only a great source of vitamins and nutrients. Citrus and other fruits with thick skins provide natural protection from bugs and germs. These are less likely to be contaminated by germs such as E. coli. No matter what fruit you're eating, make sure they are properly washed.
- Some like their adventures to be hot. Food should be treated the same way. Avoid food poisoning by sticking to dishes that are hot to the touch (and bite). This applies to all food items, from poultry to vegetables. Stick to cooked food as heat typically kills off most germs. Make sure your food is cooked so that your gut isn't. Hot foods are usually a super safe bet.
When eating abroad, it's a good idea to exercise the same common sense as you would back home. You can also prevent food poisoning by eating dry and ready-to-eat foods. Remember - less moisture usually means less germs.
Contaminated water is often as dangerous as contaminated food. In a lot of places, tap water is another source of nasty bacteria. Responsible adventurers should avoid drinking water straight from the tap. Most hotels and hostels provide bottled water to keep guests healthy. Practice the same caution when out and about by buying safely packaged drinks. Skip the ice cubes as frozen tap water may contain hibernating germs. Otherwise, try to drink tap water that has been boiled first. It's a great way to enjoy exotic tea or coffee while also fighting off disease.
Sports drinks are also a good choice as they contain important salts and nutrients that water lacks. Have sports drinks or coconuts in addition to just water so that your electrolytes are at a healthy level. Whether fresh or bottled, avoid dairy products as unpasteurized milk may not be available everywhere.
Locals are usually in-the-know about the best and most safe spots when it comes to food. They can help you identify the high-risk foods for you to avoid and steer you in the right direction. Street food should be worth the wait and not worth the risk. Local knowledge not only gives you the most authentic experience, but also maximizes safety. Non-local ingredients are often transported over long distances in less-than ideal conditions. As such, regionally available foods are often easier and safer to prepare. In the event you do get sick, consult a local for the right remedies or over-the-counter medications as well.
Short of preparing every meal yourself and never leaving your hotel, these tips can help keep your adventure free of dietary disease. In the event you do get sick, remember to rest and keep your loved ones updated. Take it easy- keep your hospital pics to a minimum.