There can be no doubt that this is the one main areas where travellers get into difficulty during their trip overseas. It is all very well to want to taste the local produce but commonsense and care must be maintained if you want to avoid spending days looking at the loo walls. Here are out top tips on how to avoid an upset stomach when travelling.
How to avoid stomach upset caused by food
Eat freshly cooked hot food (physically hot that is – not spicy hot). If the food is hot and fresh then the risk of contamination is very small and your stomach will be protected. Cold foods (either salads or cold meats) can easily be infected with a variety of organisms such as bacteria, viruses and parasites.
Stay away from lettuce and undercooked shellfish. These two are the main culprits and responsible for many a spoiled trip overseas. Oysters, shrimps, prawns and mussels are frequently harvested from infected waters and then mildly steamed in preparation for human consumption. This steaming will not sterilise them and you may end up with a seriously upset stomach as a result!
Check out the restaurant before you order your meal. Look to see if the tables are clean and the cutlery is sparkling. If you are unsure be careful and try to find another eating establishment where possible. Probably a wise precaution is to take a visit to the toilets. If they are well maintained then you can usually be assured that the care taken in the kitchens will be of a higher standard.
Choose food from the menu that you recognise, and make certain all meat is very well cooked. Try to avoid eating rare steaks while overseas. If you are not convinced, we can point you in the direction of several patients who have come home infected with 20 foot long tape worms! If your meat dish is still undercooked on arrival send it back for reheating – just make sure that you get your own meal back! (Cut a wedge out of one corner).
How to avoid stomach upset caused by water
Everybody knows that the tap water supply overseas may be questionable. They would never dream of drinking from the taps in their bedrooms. Nevertheless, we often hear that travellers have used this same water for brushing their teeth. This is not a wise move. Water will be absorbed from your mouth very rapidly no matter whether or not you actually swallow.
In regions where the tap water is untreated (smell for chlorine) don’t use ice in your drinks. This ice will be made from tap water and so may be contaminated. In some of the ‘better’ hotels they will provide a jug of ‘fresh’ water each day. Treat this with extreme caution and only use this water for washing your face if necessary. Frequently this jug will have been filled from a tap down the corridor – rather like the one in your bedroom! Bottled mineral water is a much safer option so long as the bottle is well sealed.
One of the other major pitfalls from drinking overseas comes from buying ‘freshly squeezed’ juices from roadside stalls. Often as the coach pulls to a stop they will have seen that they have too little juice for the travellers so they may top up the drink with ordinary tap water and some sugar.
- Eat freshly cooked fresh food
- Avoid bivalve shellfish such as mussels, oysters and clams.
- Eat fruit you can peel yourself
- Check out the restaurant and choose a busy one with lots of people
- Avoid ‘rare’ or under cooked meat
- Smell water for chlorine
- Drink sealed bottled water
- If the water is untreated don’t use it to brush your teeth
- Avoid ice in your drinks
- Beware of those tempting roadside stalls
If you are on holiday and do end up getting an upset stomach, check out this article on how to deal with traveller’s diarrhoea.