Avoiding Dehli Belly
I mentioned food poisoning in my last post, and I'd be curious to hear what everyone else's take on food poisoning risks and travel. I talked about it a lot with my boss and co-worker during our trip - they are both very daring and will eat pretty much anything, anywhere. They have estimated that they get sick about 1 in 10 times on work trips, so for them, they'd rather take the risk and eat something delicious. I don't know - maybe I'm overly cautious, but hearing the details of how sick they were (ie coming out of a sketchy bathroom in the middle of nowhere with just one sock) makes me cringe. What do you think dear readers? Go ahead and vote in the poll here: http://poll.pollcode.com/63315626
I don't know about you, but I would be completely mortified if I had to call up current or future clients who I had flown around the world to see and say "Sorry, I've got to cancel my meetings for the next three days because I have explosive diarrhea". Funnily enough, I am actually more likely to be adventurous when on vacation because I know if I'm sick, I can just hang out and be miserable in the hotel. But if The Company paid a ton of money to fly me around the world and I had all kinds of meetings set up that I had to miss... I guess some people probably wouldn't care about that, but I would end up feeling extremely guilty.
As such, I've got a pretty good list of tactics that I have used to so far, *knock on wood*, not fall sick while traveling. This can also be more or less strict depending on the country, if I'm in the capital or out in the countryside, etc.
In general, I tend to follow these rules in most places, at least when I travel for work:
- Only drink bottled water, and make sure the cap is still on when it arrives (though this is not 100% full-proof, there are some countries where they refill the bottles and superglue the cap back on)
- Forgo any ice in your drinks, as you don't know how it was made or where it was stored
- Always wash your hands before eating
- I know they are super tempting, but try to avoid any fresh fruits or juices unless you are able to peel or prepare them yourself
- Be cautious of street food, especially if you have a weak stomach. If you absolutely want to try some, either pick a place with good recommendations online, or where there are lots of families/children eating
- If you eat meat or seafood, make sure it is fully cooked - it's just not worth the risk
- Same goes for vegetables - this is one of the hardest ones for me to follow since I mainly eat raw veggies at home, but I avoid all salads and raw vegetables, and only eat ones that have been cooked
- If someone invites you over, also be cautious about what you consume at their home - their stomachs are used to the local water and bacteria in a way that yours might not be
- Stay away from buffets, because you can never be sure how long the food has been sitting out and at what temperature
- Ice cream can be tricky too in places that experience frequent power outages or brown-outs
- I'm not big into hand sanitizers, but if I remember, I do try to use an alcohol wipe on the two dirtiest items for travelers - the tray tables in airplanes and the TV remotes in hotel rooms
- Use only bottle watered to brush your teeth and wash your face. Also keep your mouth closed in the shower.
- If you're in a place that uses silverware, try to wipe it down with a napkin before using it
- Be careful with straws that arrive unwrapped
- I always travel with emergency meals - protein bars, oatmeal and dried soups are good substitutes in cases where restaurants are rare or you just don't want to risk it
- I also try to eat some sort of yogurt every day, just to be sure I've got good bacteria to fight off any bad that gets in
Lastly - and this isn't food related either, but it's so important - the number one thing I do when I enter any hotel room around the world - no matter how fancy or which country I'm in - is pull up the sheets from all four corners of the mattress and check for bed bugs. Better safe than sorry, and those are definitely critters you don't want to bring home with you!