When you're trying to enjoy a travel experience, a sudden encounter with food poisoning may taint your holiday. Before you set off, there are a few preventative tips your travel doctor would like you to know.
Watch out for buffet food
While buffet food may seem like an easy and clean option, it's often kept at an ambient temperature that allows bacteria to thrive. For example, E. Coli tends to linger there, especially if the person making the food doesn't engage in good hand hygiene. Wherever possible, eat at restaurants where the chef makes each dish fresh. Beyond a certain temperature, the bacteria that cause food poisoning cannot survive.
Be wary of street vendors
You might feel as though watching a street vendor cook the food hot before your eyes means there's no risk of food poisoning. However, unless they store the food at the right temperature before cooking it, you may put yourself at risk. Unless the street vendor you're visiting has a health and safety rating online, exercise caution. The same applies to those who are selling ice cream, especially if you're pregnant.
Avoid local wild game, unless in a restaurant
Unlike a lot of meat, wild game doesn't benefit from the same regulations or cooling processes. This may allow bacteria such as salmonella to thrive, producing muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal cramping. If you do visit a country where a particular delicacy is popular, visit a restaurant with a good health rating to sample it.
Prevent cholera and typhoid
Cholera and typhoid don't just cause severe food poisoning symptoms; they have the potential to cause serious damage to your body's systems. Most people catch cholera via contaminated water, and typhoid comes from poor hand hygiene. There are a few ways to prevent contracting them:
- Visit a travel doctor to ask about typhoid vaccinations and cholera prophylaxis
- Stay away from streams and other fresh water sources
- Only drink bottled water
In addition to preventing diarrhoea, you should carry a first aid kit that helps you combat the signs of it. While it's tempting to dose up on anti-diarrhoeal medication, doing so only slows the bacteria's progression, so ask your travel doctor whether doing so is advisable first.
Pack your first aid kit with lots of oral electrolyte replacement sachets, as they'll address electrolyte imbalances that wash you out. Finally, pack painkillers that don't irritate or slow your digestive system. Paracetamol is ideal, but ibuprofen may make matters worse and codeine will slow everything down. With the right, approach, you can avoid traveller's diarrhoea and enjoy your holiday.