Regardless of how frequent traveler are you, there are certain things in life for which you can never actually tell, be sure or gain enough experience. Exploring other countries and cuisines can sometimes be a reason for unpleasant experiences as well.
So, while you are planning your next perfect trip you certainly won’t be thinking of the possibilities such as spending most of your time on that amazing island in bed and in the toilet with the infamous traveler diarrhea. The fact is when it gets to you, you are done for a few days with that unpleasant stomach sickness that will probably ruin most of your vacation whether you’re a first-timer or not. The truth is that eating unsafe food can cause way more serious disease.
This, of course, shouldn’t keep us away from tasting the delicious local food and eating street food or in local restaurants. Luckily there are a few food safety tips any traveler should know about that will help you a lot not to be caught in a such a disastrous event. The fact is that it’s quite normal for our bodies to act a bit differently when changing climates, temperatures, and surroundings unlike what they are used to, including food habits. But, certain precautions can prevent from getting stomach sickness or diarrhea whenever traveling and regardless to which countries.
First thing’s first. Let’s start with the quite obvious one, that we all supposed to know and do it regularly – washing our hands properly, especially before every meal and after using toilets or when we get back from outside. Our hands are very important and they make that first and last contact with the food before we actually put it in our mouths and eat it. We do everything with our hands, from selecting the food in the markets to washing, and preparing. In all these activities and in between we should maintain our hands washed and clean at all times.
We should particularly be careful in the food markets
A lot of the food there is exposed at the open and not only the vendors, but many other people or customers will be touching the fruits, veggies or other products when selecting what to buy. And not all of the people are taking care of their hygiene as they should. That’s a lot of hands and bacterias on the products that you’ve just bought. Germs can be carried on hands and then pass on the food which is a great starting point for diseases or diarrhea.
Although the food can look really good and fresh the bacterias are not visible to our eyes. They are too small for our eyes to see them. Even though when we see old or rotten food, we may assume that has already been infected with germs, this can’t equally be true for the fresh too. The safest thing one can do is to avoid buying vegetables and fruits with damaged skin and always either wash them thoroughly or peel them by themselves before eating any. Also, raw meat and seafood is a riskier type of food and most likely will contain bacterias if not kept and cooked properly. Finally, homemade sauces are not a good idea either.
The food should be washed and cooked thoroughly
The fact is that in some countries, like developing, where the tap water isn’t safe for drinking you can never be sure how was the food washed if you don’t do it yourself. So, if you are buying some fruits on the street in those countries is better to avoid buying peeled. And to definitely take a break from eating the green salads out, that need to be washed very good. Because the locals firstly would wash them up with tap water for sure, and secondly you can’t really tell much about their hygiene.
In general when eating out, a street food, the good news is that you can actually see how the food was being prepared, right there in front of you and watch the food seller behavior while doing that. At least you can do is to choose the ones that look a bit cleaner. If you are a meat lover make sure you order your steak well-done. Another great sign is when you see many locals eating in that place. When there are many people, especially families with kids, that’s a really good sign that the food there is fresh, delicious and probably affordable. It has a turnover, so it doesn’t have to be left aside for a few hours before it’s sold.
However, the fact remains that the hygiene level of the street food sellers, in particular in developing countries, is lower than in the restaurants. If you see cooked food that’s not being kept too hot or cold in the refrigerator don’t buy it. And this doesn’t go just for the street vendors, but restaurants as well. If a cooked food stays on a room temperature for a while, even an hour or two it can be risky for eating.
We often choose to spend our vacations in apartments or condos and cook for ourselves. If you enjoy doing that then you should cook and prepare your food really thorough before eating it. Most of the harmful bacterias are killed in the process of coking and boiling on high temperatures. It’s the safest way to be sure that the food you’re going to eat would be probably good and not harmful to your health. Finally, the leftovers in the fridge can last for probably four days at most.
Whenever the tap water isn’t safe there are some other convenient solutions
Like buying bottled water for drinking, being the one. Another much better and eco-friendlier option is a refillable water bottle. These water bottles with filters are perfect whenever you are on the go. You can freely fill them with water from a fountain or sink and drink it with ease. Unsafe tap water can be harmful by even the smallest contact with our mouth. In a circumstances like that, it’s good advice to even avoid brushing your teeth with tap water and do it with bottled or purified with iodine tablets that will make most water bacteriologically suitable for drinking.
You should be cautious and consider that all the products that can be made with tap water like ice creams or ice cubes should be avoided too. Now, it can be tempting on the beach under the high temperatures when you see those freshly squeezed, juicy and cold tropical drinks in the beach bar. But then if you think again you can freely picture yourself in your head lying in the bed for a few days with diarrhea.
It’s better to go for bottled and sealed from factories beverages kept in a refrigerator than to cool them off with ice cubes. Unless of course, you’re certain that the ice was made of bottled and safe water in which case you can drink them without worries. When the ice cubes are round with a hole inside that usually is a sign that they were made in a machine. But, you never can be sure about water safety. Beverages in sealed bottles or cans are safest for a drink. On the other hand, hot drinks like tea or coffee are quite safe too, but only when served very hot.
You might be killing those bad bacterias and don’t know anything about it
Drinking a lot of water and refreshments is always a good idea. When visiting foreign countries and tropical climates where the sun is shining all the time we should be aware that our body will need much more liquids and water especially, to stay hydrated. Coffee, sweets or alcohol tend to remove more water from the body which obviously isn’t a good idea at all when exposed on the sun and on high temperatures or if you catch diarrhea.
And again on the other hand alcohol can kill germs. So, maybe it won’t be such a bad idea to take a sip after your lunch just in case. But, in order to better your chances of going to that bacterial funeral, you should take some stronger liquor than wine or beer. Or if you are keen to spicier food, then you may be in luck. Besides that, spices like cinnamon, thyme, oregano, clove can give that delicious flavor to the dish they make the food much safer for our bodies. Since spices kill bacterias that are commonly found in the food your chances of getting ill are lower from the start. Some other spices and herbs are antibacterial too, such as onion, garlic, pepper, ginger, or coriander. Consuming them regularly helps in strengthening of the body immune system and health in general.
Whenever traveling to foreign destinations it’s for the best to always bring your own little pharmacy with you from home. Also, before leaving your country, consult your doctor for medications or antibiotics that can cure diarrhea. Additionally, in case of a stomach illness drinking a lot of water or other boiled liquids such as tea or soup will make you feel better.
We should be more cautious when making our choices, but shouldn’t lack from tasting the deliciously prepared local foods in our travels worldwide either. Lastly, you can get sick of the same reasons even in your own home. Being aware of these indicators mentioned above is enough to say that we’ve done the best we could. After all, you can never be totally sure of anything in life. So, we should never fear to explore more.