Food poisoning and gastroenteritis is never anyone’s idea of a good time but while travelling it has the potential to derail your whole trip. The last thing you want while on vacation is spending your precious holiday time in the bathroom. Unfortunately, once you come down with a stomach bug there is usually no cure, as most cases are viral, you just have to ride it out. This is why prevention is so important. So spend more time looking at sunsets and less time looking at your bathroom tiles by following these preventative tips to stay healthy.
Disclaimer – I am not a doctor, these are things I have picked up over 10 years of travel and many experiences with gastro/food poisoning. Always follow your doctors advice.
- Wash your hands properly
This might sound simple but you would be surprised how many people don’t wash their hands effectively after using the bathroom. Follow these 3 steps to ensure a thorough clean.
- Wash your hands with soap and get a good lather up, making sure it gets between all your fingers and under your nails.
- Rinse off under warm running water while rubbing your hands together for a full 20 seconds. Make sure to get under those nails again! (On the topic of nails, you should never ever bite them!)
- Dry your hands quickly and thoroughly, preferably with paper towels or a high velocity dryer.
- Always carry hand sanitiser
There will be times when running water and soap will not be available. Perhaps you had to use the toilet on that 12 hour bus ride and then wanted to dig into a packet of chips for a snack, or maybe you just got some fish and chips at the beach or a hotdog at the local football match. In these circumstances you will be grateful that you have your little bottle of hand sanitiser! It isn’t perfect but it is so much better than not washing your hands at all.
- Watch what you eat
One of the most common ways to contact a tummy bug is through contaminated food. But when you are travelling how do you know what is safe and what isn’t?
- Follow the crowd – First always pick a restaurant or café that has lots of other people eating there, preferably locals. Locals will not come back if the food is bad and a busy restaurant will mean a quick turnover and a lower likelihood that the food has been sitting there for hours.
- Make sure it is clean – Secondly have a look at the cleanliness of the establishment. A common way of transmitting the gastroenteritis virus is due to people not having clean hands when preparing food, so make sure that the café looks clean. If the kitchen is visible see if it looks like the staff are using gloves or if there is a hand wash station available. These are indicators that there are good cleanliness practices in place.
- Check your food – Always check your food before eating. Is it hot? Luke warm or cool food is an indicator it may have been sitting there for a while allowing bacteria to grow. Does it look cooked all the way through? You should never eat meat that hasn’t been cooked through (with the exception of beef steak) as it will not have reached the required temperature to kill any potential salmonella or other bacteria.
Does this mean you can’t enjoy street food? Yes and no. When eating street food, make sure it is cooked in front of you and that any fruit is peeled after purchase.
- Get vaccinated for Cholera if you are going off the beaten trail
The cholera vaccine provides some protection against one of the most serious stomach bugs and can provide you with some peace of mind when travelling to rural areas in Africa, Latin America or South East Asia. You may need a prescription from your doctor and it usually comes in 2 satchels of powder that need to be mixed into water and taken a week apart. Make sure to always follow the instructions from your doctor or pharmacist.
There is no way to completely remove all risk of contracting a stomach bug while travelling, but following these steps will significantly reduce the chance of it occurring, leaving you to go and explore the world around you instead of just looking at it through your bathroom window.
Do you have any tips for preventing food poisoning or a crazy story about your last tummy bug? Tell us about it in the comment section below!