Summer is the perfect time to travel, but nothing can make a summer vacation more miserable than a sudden bout of “traveler’s diarrhea” or “food poisoning.” Getting food poisoning, or contracting a foodborne illness while traveling can happen at any time. Try these tips to help you enjoy your summer travels and stay out of your hotel room.
Get It While It’s Hot
Buffets may seem like a great idea while you’re on vacation. Getting to try a variety of different foods at a reasonable price seems like a good deal. In reality, buffets can be a cesspool of bacteria and foods that are likely to “fight back.” Most buffets feature warm food, which is basically a breeding ground for bacteria. Instead opt for hot, freshly made food. Since you are unlikely to find fresh hot food at street vendors, you may want to skip them as well.
Other items to avoid include cold meat platters, unsealed mayonnaise, shellfish, and fish organs, which are all notorious culprits that can cause tummy troubles. Because fish may be sourced differently, it is best to avoid larger fish. Smaller breeds of fish are usually safe.
Look for Pasteurized Products
Avoid unpasteurized milk and dairy products, including ice cream, as well as fruit juices that are freshly squeezed but unpasteurized. Pasteurization kills bacteria that can cause intestinal disruptions and leave you stranded in a hotel or, worse, searching for a hospital.
Know the Water Source
Not all countries have access to clean water. To avoid unknown local water sources, do not eat pre-sliced fruits and veggies. Peel and wash vegetables yourself so that you know how it has been handled. If you are a vegetarian, it is often best to buy and make your own dishes from a grocery store rather than trying to order items without meat at a restaurant.
Drink water from bottles only and skip ice in any drinks, including cocktails. Hot beverages, like coffee and tea, should always be steaming hot. Never drink them if they are at room temperature.
Keep in mind that in many cases, traveling to other countries or areas doesn’t mean that the food is actually “unclean,” it just means that your body isn’t used to it. Different growing practices can result in bacteria that your body doesn’t have immunity to.
It can be helpful to travel with a stash of Pepto-Bismol, just in case you do feel “traveling sickness” coming on. The pink stuff or similar bismuth subsalicylate products can significantly reduce diarrhea, allowing you to better enjoy your trip. Another useful item to carry is hand sanitizer or wipes that allow you to disinfect your own hands before your meal. This helps you avoid making yourself sick.