While sampling exotic foods and beverages is one of the great pleasures of travelling, local delicacies can also play host to bugs that could leave you seriously ill. Here are some tips to minimise your risk:
- Always wash your hands thoroughly before eating.
- In countries where the water is unsafe, drink (and brush your teeth with) bottled water — always check the seal on the bottle.
- Beer, wine and carbonated beverages are fine as long as they are in a sealed can or bottle, as is coffee or tea made with boiling water.
- Avoid ice, which may be made with unsafe water.
- Avoid undercooked, uncooked or reheated food, salads, or unpeeled fruit and veggies.
- Avoid dairy products, shellfish and food that you can see being handled.
- Opt for freshly-cooked food, peelable fruits and foods in cans or sealed packs.
- Choose busy restaurants serving local food and always use clean plates and cutlery. Don’t assume your hotel’s buffet is risk-free.
Simon from Sydney got more than he bargained for when he ordered a burger in Vietnam.
‘"In 2000 my partner and I travelled for a month in Vietnam. We were pretty adventurous with the food, eating from street vendors and trying things we couldn't even identify — all with no problems.
"About three weeks into the trip we reached Hanoi and ordered a hamburger in a tourist café —a couple of hours later I started feeling rough. I spent much of the next couple of days on the toilet with a raging temperature that was just below the 'go straight to hospital' threshold.
"Fortunately we'd bought a 'gastro pack' at the travel medical centre back in Sydney, which included the usuals like re-hydration salts, diarrhoea stopper (Loperamide, which I didn't use), antibiotics and a flowchart that gave diagnostics to work out if you should go straight to hospital, and what to do otherwise.
"A couple of days later I was still unwell but we were keen to get up into the North-West of Vietnam so I started on the antibiotics included in the pack and within a couple of hours was starting to feel better. The next day I was fine to travel."