Food and Water Safety When You Travel Abroad
The Centers for Disease Control has an excellent "infographic" on food and water safety when you travel abroad. This is often a concern since traveler's diarrhea is certainly something you want to avoid.
Traveler's diarrhea is the most common travel-related illness. It is more likely to occur with travel to Asia (except Japan), Mexico, Central America, South America, Africa and the Middle East.
Prevention is key and starts with making wise choices for food and beverages. Basically, avoid street vendors selling food or drinks. Also avoid: uncooked or unwashed vegetables, unpeeled vegetables or fruits, ice, tap water, raw meat, under-cooked meat or wild game meat.
Hand washing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is very helpful. Always wash your hands before eating. Also avoid touching potential risky items, then touching your mouth since you may accidentally infect yourself in this manner.
Traveler's diarrhea usually is taken care of by our strong immune system, lasting up to 3-7 days. Hydration is key, as well as eating a very bland diet to allow your gastrointestinal system to return to its normal state. If you have no fever, you could try over-the-counter medications such as Immodium (lomotil). Therefore, make sure to pack Immodium or a similar product if you are going to a region that is at high risk. Some ask their healthcare provider for antibiotics prior to leaving for their trip. The necessity of this is based on where you are going and your risks.
More serious illnesses experiences by travelers could be caused by ova and parasites from unclear water or foods. This includes exposure during water sports, and incidental ingestion of the water. Severe, watery diarrhea with fever, muscle pain, weakness, dizziness and weight loss are signs and symptoms to not ignore. Seeking medical attention is wise in this case, or for illness that lingers more than one week.