A recent report in the news highlighted how important it is to take food and water hygiene seriously when travelling.
According to the BBC’s report, in some countries up to 50% of travellers report sickness due to poor hygiene or dirty drinking water yet this can be avoided by following simple rules.
The majority of tourist destinations should have safe drinking water but for those people prone to stomach problems simple precautions like using bottled water – including for cleaning your teeth, can help avoid a ruined holiday.
Whilst many of the problems encountered are often put down to the water being ‘dirty’ and by that meaning contaminated with bacteria, often it can be as simple as the local water having a different mineral content to that which the traveller is used to. Again, drinking bottled water will help.
It’s often the things you may not think of that cause problems – eating salads in restaurants where it’s been washed in tap water or having ice that is made from tap water in drinks are things best avoided.
Most illnesses will tend to be from contamination with faecal material in the water where sewage systems are poorly constructed or maintained. Illnesses from these problems include gastroenteritis, cryptosporidium or E-coli. They can also be contracted from food preparation where personal hygiene standards in the kitchen are not enforced.
Despite taking the recommended precautions, you are still quite likely to be unlucky and contract one of these illnesses in less developed countries and then the focus turns to how you deal with the symptoms. In many cases the infection is only slight despite the symptoms and requires only staying off food, regular rehydration, taking diarrhoea medication to prevent dehydration and rest until the symptoms abate. For most healthy people these illnesses are dealt with by the body’s immune system but for the young, elderly or frail, they can be serious, requiring hospitalisation and you should always seek medical advice in such circumstances.
In general, travel throughout Western Europe, the Mediterranean islands, North America and Australasia can generally be considered safe although there are always exceptions. Trouble spots seem to be Turkey
and the Middle East, North Africa, southern Africa, Asia and South America amongst the major holiday destinations and if you’re heading off the beaten track, the suggested precautions become even more important.
If prone to stomach complaints or travelling to unusual destinations, make sure you pack plenty of anti-diarrhoea medication and follow medical advice and even if you fall foul of the water supply, you’ll minimise disruption to your holiday.