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Good advices to stay healthy abroad
Traveling and staying abroad: precautions to take regarding water and food.
The number of people travelling internationally is increasing every year. According to statistics from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international tourist arrivals in the year 2008 reached 922 million. In countries where water supply, sanitation, food safety and hygiene conditions are poor, serious health risks may arise. Those that are related to the fecal-oral route and salubrious water are: the traveler’s diarrhea, Hepatitis A, typhoid fever and cholera…
In conclusion, during any trip or holiday in a high-risk country, you should be careful about what you drink and eat, and also take some precautions. (1)
Good behavior to avoid being sick. (2)
1) Be careful with drinking water! Choose bottled water.
Drink only bottled water and ask for the bottle to be unsealed in front of you.
If you don’t have the choice, use chemical solutions to sanitize tap water, such as chlorine solutions, by following the directions on the package (you may have to wait for 15 minutes to sometimes 2 hours before drinking it, depending on the products used) or boil it for 5 to 10 minutes. Don’t forget to check that the can is clean.
In a café or at the restaurant, coffee and teas can be consumed provided that they are prepared with boiling water.
Avoid homemade fruit juices prepared with tap water
Beware of ice cubes added to your drink: they are usually made of tap water and can contain microorganisms.
Use bottled water to brush your teeth.
Use bottled or boiled water to mix baby formula.
2) Make a habit of washing your hands as often as possible.
Wash them before eating, after going to the toilet, after touching an animal or aliments (on a food market for instance).
3) Do not eat raw aliments
Avoid them as much as possible: raw vegetables and fruits, meat and fish, eggs and milk.
Only eat fruits and vegetables that you can peel and/or hull. After peeling them, wash your hands thoroughly before eating them.
Furthermore, when you buy food from street merchants or when you take it from hotels or restaurant buffets, make sure that the cooked aliments are not in contact with raw aliments, since they could get contaminated.
Do not eat shellfish, mollusk or cowries that are raw or not cooked enough (be careful with barely cooked mussels).
Beware of homemade preparations made from raw eggs like mayonnaise, sauces, mousses…
Avoid unpasteurized milk and dairy products, including ice cream.
4) Make sure that your food is cooked enough
Most bacteria are destroyed by cooking them at a temperature of 70°C (158°F). Take the precaution of cooking your aliments enough and of eating only well cooked food.
Beware of poultry meat looking pink inside.
Avoid medium cooked minced meat: it has to be well done to avoid the proliferation of bacteria.
5) Food has to be stored at a proper temperature
Cooked food left at room temperature is another high risk of food contamination.
At the buffet of a restaurant or on a market, do not take food that is not maintained in a hot or cool place, or disposed on ice. Indeed, microorganisms can increase very quickly in products stored at room-temperature.
6) What to do in case of a diarrhea ? (2)
If, in spite of all these precautions, you couldn’t escape from the famous “traveler’s diarrhea”, here are some useful pieces of advice to get better quickly.
Most of the diarrheas end by themselves after a few days. The important thing is not to be dehydrated.
7) To do so, you just need to drink regularly and enough water, especially if you are in a hot country and if you are fragile
Do not hesitate to see a doctor in case of a severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, serious state of shock and/or if the first signs of dehydration appear: fatigue, dark circles under your eyes, thirst, dry mouth. It’s important to look after the young children because they can get dehydrated very quickly in a few hours only!
As soon as the first diarrhea is noticed, it is recommended to drink plenty of water without delay:
Bottled water; associated with a poor fibred alimentation ( cheese, meat, fish, and banana) and salted dishes.
If the diarrhea is persistent, you can use ORS (oral rehydration salts) to be found in a drugstore or that you already took with you. Made of powder, these salts are to be diluted in bottled water. The obtained beverage contains nutrients (glucose) and minerals (sodium, potassium…) in controlled quantities, to restore the water and electrolytic balance in the case of diarrhea.
If you do not have ORS, you can do it yourself by adding 6 tea-spoons of sugar and 1/2 tea-spoon of salt to 1 liter of safe drinking water.
Drink as much as you can, the goal is to avoid dehydration. A potential medical treatment will be decided by a doctor.
In any case, and even if all these precautions seem rather complicated, make your life easier: drink only bottled-water and eat only well cooked aliments and peeled fruits.