Food poisoning is something no one wants to experience when traveling the world. But it’s actually quite common if you’re not careful and aware of the risks and know what to do to avoid getting food poisoning abroad.
In this article, I’ve gathered my best tips on how to avoid food poisoning abroad, and what to do if you would get sick during your trip.
Keep good hand hygiene
Your hands are the biggest reason why bacteria spread and it’s therefore very important to always keep them clean.
Wash your hands before and after every meal with soap and water. If you’re in a country with low standard of tap water, it can be good idea to use hand sanitiser as well.
Avoid tap water
In many countries around the world it’s safe to drink the tap water. But if the water contains a bacterial flora that we are not used to, it can lead to problems in your stomach.
In some countries the tap water is not drinkable at all and therefore it’s important to also avoid ice and fresh vegetables that have been rinsed in tap water.
The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to buy bottled water, or invest in a water bottle with a built-in purification system that filters out the bacteria.
Order drinks without ice
When you get ice in your drinks at restaurants abroad, the ice is usually made of tap water, which can make you sick.
The best thing is to always say no to ice when ordering a drink to avoid getting sick during your trip.
Do not eat food that has been out for too long
Food that has been out for a long time is very likely full of bacteria that are just waiting to give your food poisoning. This is one of the biggest reasons why people get sick abroad, especially in hot destinations where bacteria thrive even faster.
To protect yourself from this, it’s a good idea to avoid buffets and street food that have been out for a long time.
Make sure your food is properly cooked
Abroad, especially in tourist resorts, it’s common that the food is not cooked enough for tourists. If you eat dishes with pork or chicken it’s very important that it’s been cooked properly, otherwise there’s a great risk of salmonella, parasites and other bacteria such as yersinia enterocolitica.
To avoid food poisoning abroad, it’s important to ask to have your food cooked properly. Food that has not been cooked properly can make you very sick, and at worst lead to death.
Eat at restaurants with lots of guests
A good rule you can have during your holiday is to eat in restaurants that have a large number of guests, and also in restaurants where the locals eat themselves.
Many guests of both tourists and locals is a good sign that the food is delicious and of good standard.
Expensive does not always mean it’s safe
In fact, there are many stories of expensive restaurants around the world that have given people food poisoning. I have myself gotten salmonella at one of the finest restaurants in Jaipur in India.
So, just because a dish has a high price, it does not mean that the food is cooked properly. One tip is to check out the reviews from previous guests of different restaurants on Tripadvisor.
Eat local food
When you’re abroad, I can recommend eating local food. Partly because it’s fun to taste, but also because it is usually cooked properly.
How do I know if I have food poisoning?
Here are some common symptoms of food poisoning:
- Nausea and / or vomiting
- Stomach ache
- Decreased appetite
- Weight Loss
- Pain in muscles
What to do if you get food poisoning abroad
Even though you follow these tips on how to avoid food poisoning abroad, you can still have bad luck and get sick. In most cases, your body can handle the food poisoning itself through rest, vomiting and diarrhea. It’s usually not dangerous if you’re in good health.
However, if you have food poisoning it’s important to replace the fluids you lose. You can do this by drinking oral rehydration. You can buy it at pharmacies or make it yourself at home.
If you want to make your own oral rehydration you mix a half teaspoon of salt in one liter of boiled and cooled water, then you add two tablespoons of sugar and stir. If you do not like the taste you can always add some juice.
If you have fever or if the diarrhea and vomiting lasts several days, you should seek medical care. Then you might have a more serious food poisoning that your body cannot handle – such as salmonella or other dangerous bacteria.
Be careful with:
- Salads and uncooked vegetables
- Ice cream and desserts
- Fish, seafood, chicken and pork
- Soft boiled eggs and raw eggs
- Tap water and ice
More tips on how to avoid food poisoning:
- Food that you bring to the beach, on a picnic, or on a day trip should always be kept cold until you eat
- Food that has been out in room temperature for more than 2 hours should be thrown away, if the temperature in the room is higher, throw away the food even earlier
- Food should always be heated to at least 70 degrees
- Remember that a microwave often heats the food unevenly
- Never cut meat and vegetables with the same unwashed knife
- Always use different cutting boards for raw meats and vegetables
You can read more about food poisoning at Healthline.com.
My experience from having food poisoning abroad
I have had bad luck with food poisoning abroad. It has happened several times during my travels when I’ve been careless with hand hygiene and not been checking that the food been cooked properly.
In Luang Prabang, Alex and I got really sick and ran between the hotel room and bathroom for two days. We felt really sick and almost couldn’t go to the store to buy something to eat and drink – which is why it’s so important to have oral rehydration with you in your suitcase.
Another time we got sick was when we got salmonella in India efter eating at a luxury restaurant in Jaipur. Alex ordered a dish of lamb and I a classic chicken masala, which Alex only tasted a bite of. After that meal we got sick a whole month, which destroyed much of our 6-month trip through Southeast Asia.
With that said, always carry oral rehydration in your suitcase in case you would get food poisoning abroad.
Do you have more questions about food poisoning abroad? Leave a comment below!