Getting food poisoned is the last thing you want to encounter during your trip, but if one isn’t careful and keep an eye on what you should look out for, it’s easy to get food poisoning in some countries. Therefore, I have collected 7 of my best tips to avoid food poisoning when abroad.
At the bottom, you will also find a guide for what to do if disaster strikes anyway, even if you’ve followed the tips.
1. Keep a good hand hygiene
Did you know that our hands are the main spread of infections? The truth is that our hands often are the biggest reason why we get sick or ingest bacteria that make us sick.
By having a good hand hygiene and washing hands before every meal and at regular intervals you will reduce the risk of food poisoning and diseases enormously. This is especially true if you have been in public places or using public transportation.
2. Watch out for tap water
In some countries, it is safe to drink the tap water, but even so, the bacterial flora could differ so much that you still get diarrhea or other nasty symptoms from drinking it. In some countries, tap water is not safe to drink at all, and if so, one should beware of ice and vegetables washed in the local water as well, since that could trigger symptoms.
To protect yourself it’s best to buy bottled water or carry a water bottle with a built-in filter that removes 99.9% of bacteria. Environmental and money-wise, I recommend a water bottle with a built-in filter.
3. Avoid places where the food stood in front
Food that has been left out for too long is a real paradise for bacteria, and many cases of food poisoning abroad (particularly hot destinations) is because the food stood out in the open for a long time. The hotter it is, the faster bacteria grows and multiply.
Avoid places where the food is kept out for a long time, for example, on a buffet with few guests. Also, avoid street stalls where the food has been done for a long time. Try always to buy fresh street food!
4. Ensure that your food is well cooked
Pork and chicken are two kinds of meat that needs to be cooked properly at a sufficiently high heat. If not, there is a risk that one ingests salmonella, parasites, and other germs.
Eating food that isn’t cooked properly could at worst, lead to death. In many cases, you will “only” be ill or very sick for one or two days, but the risk of more serious conditions will always be there if the food isn’t properly cooked.
5. Eat at places with lots of people (locals)
This is a very good and useful rule to follow while abroad. If a restaurant is popular, especially among the locals they usually tend to keep a good standard, both for cooking and flavoring. Therefore, always look for places where locals sit or places that have good reviews.
However, lots of tourists don’t mean that it’s good food, it might as well be a superb PR-guy or low prices that attract visitors. Choose a restaurant with care and simply use common sense.
6. Expensive does not always mean safe
Many tourists choose more expensive options to ensure that they don’t get food poisoning, for example in countries like India. The price is however not a good benchmark when it comes to food safety. Please look at sites such as TripAdvisor before selecting eatery and see if there is anything that is recommended by other travelers.
7. Be careful of the following:
- Salad and vegetables (uncooked).
- Ice cream and desserts.
- Shellfish, fish, chicken, and pork.
- Soft-boiled and raw eggs.
- tap water.
Do this if the disaster still strikes
Although if you’ve followed the tips above, you could be so unlucky that you still get food poisoning, or ingest any other bacteria that produce similar symptoms. Fortunately, most of the times it isn’t life threatening, and it is seldom that one needs care if you just know how to treat food poisoning, dehydration and diarrhea on their own.
For toddlers and older people, it may be more serious, and it is then best to consult a doctor.
Most of the time, our body will treat the infection and bacteria by itself. The body does this by sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea. This is normal and the natural way of getting rid of things that aren’t belonging to the body.
It may not be so nice, but you will need to endure it and make sure to help your body as much as you can. To help your body in its recovery, it’s very important to stay hydrated, to rest and eat the right kind of foods.
When you’re vomiting and have diarrhea, large amounts of fluid and minerals disappear from your body. Therefore, you will need to replace this, either by an oral rehydration formula or by making your own.
To make your own, simply mix half a teaspoon of salt in one liter of water. Subsequently, add sugar and stir.
If you get a high fever or vomiting and have diarrhea for a long time (more than a couple of days), you should consult a doctor. If so, it may involve a more serious food poisoning, which the body may not be able to fight on its own.
Additional info to avoid food poisoning
- Food that you bring on the trip or to the beach shall be kept cold until the food to be eaten.
- Food particles should never out in the open for more than 2 hours. If it’s hot, the time will be shortened considerably, and if it’s really hot, it should not be out there for longer than half an hour.
- For bacteria to die, the food must be heated to at least 70 degrees Celsius.
- Microwave ovens are not good. The heating of the food will often be uneven.
- Always use a separate knife when cutting vegetables and meat.
- Always use a separate cutting board for raw meat and vegetables.