When you’re on a busy trip with a tight schedule, you can’t afford to be ill. Whether it’s a holiday or a business trip, there’s nothing worse than being sick in a strange hotel or landing back home exhausted and drained after a bout of abdominal upset. Nicknamed “Delhi Belly”, “Montezuma’s Revenge”, “Tourista” or the “Jamaican Runs”, traveller’s diarrhoea is the most common affliction for those travelling overseas and is so named because the cause is often simply the change in food or water.
Unfortunately, if you’re doing business in developing countries, you’re also more likely to encounter food that is contaminated and that harbours dangerous bacteria, viruses or parasites such as E. coli, Shigella, Salmonella, Rotavirus and Giardia.
Whichever one strikes you, the symptoms are embarrassingly similar – diarrhoea, aka the trots or the runs, abdominal pain and vomiting, sometimes accompanied by nausea and a fever. Anyone who’s had it needs no reminder.
To avoid ruining your next trip, keep the following 10 key food safety tips handy. They apply to developing countries, especially those with warm or tropical climates or where hygiene is poor like South-East Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America.
High-risk destinations include India, Nepal, tour boats on the Nile and poorer areas outside the main cities of any developing country.
If you lose this information, remember the old saying:
“Boil it, cook it, peel it - or forget it”.
If you are unfortunate enough to succumb, remember the best treatment is simply to drink plenty of fluids, at least 3 litres each day, as fluid loss through the bowel is significant.
There’s no need to starve yourself. If you feel like eating, try bland carbohydrate foods like boiled rice, oats, dry toast, banana, plain noodles, cracker biscuits or mashed potato. Read more at my post on Eat to Beat Gastro and Diarrhoea.
Many backpackers and frequent travellers swear by the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast). There are many variations on this diet; a friend’s doctor prescribed honey, rice and salt for gastro problems years ago and I remember as child being given diluted flat lemonade and dry crackers or plain toast.
There’s usually no need to see a doctor unless the diarrhoea is severe or has not improved after two to three days. Anti-diarrhoeals should not be taken unless you absolutely must or have to get on a plane as they can make things worse in the long run.
For further information and to obtain sachets of rehydration powder and antibiotics (as well as vaccinations), visit a Traveller’s Medical and Vaccination Centre.