7.05.2015 | Water and health
Important Health Tips while Travelling
Most people enjoy the rush of an adventure – the sheer thrill of packing a bag and heading out to a rustic location of unfamiliar surroundings. And while you should go ahead and do that (if it’s something you enjoy doing), the one thing that can completely ruin your plan is if you fall ill because of something you ate or drank.
Since prevention is better than cure, here are some simple things to take note of while travelling:
- When it comes to drinking water, fill up your bottle from home or your hotel/lodge. Make sure it’s purified using a reliable water purification system.
- Another option with drinking water is to buy packaged, sealed, tamper-proof bottled water from a known brand or a brand that has been certified locally.
- While it may be safe to drink bottled alcohol, excess consumption could cause dehydration – and it should be avoided if there is insufficient water available.
- It is usually safe to drink carbonated beverages (bottles/cans), canned juices or bottles that are sterilized or sealed. Always clean the top of the can before opening and consuming a drink.
- Hot coffee and tea are also usually safe to drink, since they are boiled during preparation.
- Avoid adding ice to drinks unless you are sure about the purity of the water that was used to make the ice.
Healthy choices about “what to eat” and “what not to eat”
Keeping in mind some of the basic principles of food hygiene, here is a sample list of what you could eat and what you should avoid when travelling.
What to eat:
- Hot beverages – this would include tea, coffee and even soup
- Food that is served piping hot
- Canned or bottled beverages (but wash the lid of the can before you open it)
- Pasteurized dairy products e.g. butter or processed cheese
- Vegetables and fruits that are peeled and cleaned by you
- Dry bread
What to avoid:
- Water directly from a tap or ice made with unknown source of water
- Fountain drinks
- Salads made with uncooked vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables
- Sweet dishes with custard or cream
- Golas/ popsicles/ flavoured ice
- Cold cuts (meat and fish – even if it was previously boiled)
- Raw or undercooked meat/eggs
- Food that is reheated
- Sauces and dips that are made with fresh (and not cooked) ingredients
- Street food that has been boiled for less than 5 minutes
- Pre-cleaned fruits (it’s better to peel the fruit yourself)
And if you do fall ill …
If despite all precautions you find that you have an upset stomach, don’t panic. In most cases, diarrhoea is self-limited i.e. it will resolve itself in a few days. In the meanwhile:
- Stay hydrated. It’s important to avoid dehydration because of the fluid that you lose. Soup and purified drinking water are safe to drink. Since you lose electrolytes with diarrhoea, you could also drink ‘oral rehydration solution’ (ORS).
- If ORS is not available, mix one level teaspoon of salt and six teaspoons of sugar in a litre of purified, safe drinking water.
However, if a child has taken ill and is showing symptoms of dehydration (i.e. the child seems irritable, restless, is very thirsty, eyes seems sunken, skin has lost some of its elasticity), seek medical help immediately. Also if the diarrhoea lasts for more than 3 days or if the stools are very watery, frequent, or contain blood, seek medical help.
According to the World Health Organization, if there is no medical assistance available, opt for a 3-day course of ciprofloxacin (adults: 500 mg, twice a day; children: 15mg/kg twice a day). Medicines that stop bowel movement are usually not recommended.