Many diseases can be transmitted through contaminated water or food. This is particularly the case for cholera, typhoid fever, traveller’s diarrhea and hepatitis A. Our advice to avoid the worst when travelling.
Travelling is often an opportunity to make new gastronomic discoveries. Exotic, of course, but sometimes also risky! Your vaccination record is up to date and you have taken out travel insurance. You are taking preventive medication to avoid getting malaria. As a result, you tell yourself that you are not at risk of getting sick. Wrong! No one is immune to certain health problems.
Many diseases can be transmitted through contaminated water or food (cholera, hepatitis A, tourist, etc.). Schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease, can be caught by skin contact in the fresh water of tropical lakes, rivers or streams. Staying in a five-star hotel does not protect you from risks. Viruses and parasites can be found in ice cubes, swimming pools and large water amusement parks.
The degree of precautions to take will vary depending on the region of the world you are going to visit and its safety standards: people will be more suspicious of street foods in Delhi than in New York. That said, here are the general precautions to take in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia.
The golden rules for eating while travelling
- Do not eat anything that has not been boiled, cooked or peeled.
- Eat only well-cooked and still hot foods. Avoid raw foods, especially shellfish and salads.
- Eat peeled or cooked fruits and vegetables.
- In buffets, avoid any food that has been stored without a lid and therefore exposed to flies and other insects. And beware of reheated dishes.
- Drink only water that has been boiled or disinfected with chlorine or iodine. Even better: ask for bottled water and demand that the bottle be opened in front of you to avoid unpleasant surprises.
- Choose sparkling water, whose bubbles make counterfeiting impossible. Ultimately, choose canned or bottled soft drinks or alcoholic beverages (wine, beer) rather than unsafe ones.
- Avoid ice cubes unless they have been made with purified water. Ask the staff at the institution about this. This recommendation is not foolproof; if in doubt, be wary.
- Do not consume unpasteurized dairy products or ice cream.
- Refuse food from street stands and street vendors.
- Do not swim in contaminated or polluted water. Swimming pool water is often the source of contamination. If the water is cloudy or milky in colour, there is probably not enough chlorine. Don’t dip in it. Similarly, swimming in polluted rivers, lakes, rivers and other watercourses shall not be permitted. Travel guides can help us with this.
- Brush your teeth with bottled water.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before each meal, when leaving the toilet and before handling food (for example, during a picnic or at a beach restaurant). If you don’t have soap, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; always keep some with you in your pocket or bag.
Back to the roots
Do you go to your country of origin to visit your relatives? Be careful! Be careful! It is possible that the immunity you had against local diseases when you lived in this country has been greatly reduced. In addition, health and social conditions in your country of origin may have worsened since you left. If you live with family or friends, you may be exposed to untreated water or undercooked food. You must therefore take precautions to protect yourself and your family.
Despite these precautions, you are struggling with the tourist? This is the most common health problem for travellers. The best treatment for diarrhea is to drink plenty of water or bottled juice right from the beginning of the problem. If you have taken an oral rehydration solution with you, consume it. Finally, be patient with your pain. Most of the time, the tourista only lasts a few days. However, if your symptoms persist for more than two days, if there is blood in your stool or if you have a fever, do not hesitate to consult a doctor.
Menus, diets, food allergies….
Imagine: you are in a charming bouiboui in the heart of China and you don’t understand anything on the menu. What to do about it? Some conversation guides, including the Ulysse and Larousse guides, are specifically designed to help you get out of trouble in situations that may arise while travelling, including gastronomic “adventures”. It explains how to read the menu, how to buy typical products in a store or market, how to book a table in a restaurant or how to inform the waiter of any dietary requirements, if you have food allergies for example. You can also write the sentences you need in a notebook or use translation modules.
Also have medication for allergic reactions on hand. If you have severe allergies to food or medication, consider wearing a MedicAlert bracelet. In an emergency situation, health personnel will be aware of your medical condition.