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Are you planning a trip to other countries? Remember, healthy travel requires planning, preparation, self-discipline, and vigilance.

Many illnesses, including travellers’ diarrhoea, hepatitis A, typhoid and cholera are contracted through contaminated food and water. Travelers’ diarrhea (Food poisoning) is the most common illness contracted abroad, affecting 20-60% of overseas travellers. 

No matter where you go, you can reduce your risk of such diseases by following these basic guidelines.

1. Avoid tap water.

This includes water from the tap and beverages with ice. Don’t drink when brushing your teeth or bathing.

In developing countries, water may be contaminated by bacteria, parasites, and viruses that cause hepatitis, cholera, and typhoid fever. Even a small amount of contaminated water can make you ill.

Most tap water is perfectly fine to drink if you are a local. For travelers, however, the bacteria found in tap water around the world varies considerably and your own belly biome may not stand up well to the local bacteria, even if you like the locals themselves.

The best approach here is to buy and drink bottled water only; in most cases bottled water has been filtered sufficiently not to cause trouble even for weaker stomachs. 

2. Don't forget that ice cubes are typically made from tap water. 

This is an easy one to forget. Unless you know the ice was made with bottled or disinfected water, skip it.

3. Drink safe beverages.

Boiled water:
One minute of boiling should adequately disinfect most water, but boiling water for 3 minutes is recommended.

Treated water
Commercial iodine or chlorine tablets provide substantial protection if used according to directions.

Tea and coffee:
Beverages made with boiled water and served steaming hot.

Bottled water or canned beverages:
Because water on the outside of cans and bottles may be contaminated, they should be wiped clean and dried before being opened.

4. Avoid raw fruits and vegetables. 

This includes salads and uncooked vegetables. These may be contaminated or may have been rinsed with unsafe water.

Eat only food that has been cooked and is still hot, or fruit that you know has been washed in safe water and you have peeled yourself.

5. Do NOT eat these foods.

- Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
- Unpasteurized milk and milk products, especially soft cheeses.
- Prepared food that has been left unrefrigerated for several hours.
- Street food containing meat, eggs, vegetables, fruits and dairy.
- Any food prepared by street vendors.

6. Eat safe foods.

- Thoroughly cooked fruits and vegetables.
- Bread, corn flakes, bran flakes and toasts.
- Fruits with a thick covering (citrus fruits, bananas, and melons). 
- Fruits that have been washed in safe water. 
- Thoroughly cooked meat, poultry, eggs, and fish.
- Dairy products from large commercial dairies, such as ultra-pasteurized milk or hard cheese.

7. Don’t drink from unclean or unwrapped glasses in hotel rooms.

By now most folks have seen the hotel sanitation exposes where hotel cleaning staff merely wipes out a used glass with a towel, or, even worse, sprays some kind of cleaning agent in a glass, wipes it with a dirty rag and puts it back on the counter. Germs, chemicals, leftover toothpaste; none of these are good for you.

The rule of thumb here: If the glass is not wrapped in a sealed plastic bag, wash it yourself using very hot water, or simply don't use it.

8. Drink lot of water especially while flying.

Your body needs water to do pretty much everything, and hydration only gets more important when you are tired, run down and under siege by unfamiliar germs. Dehydration not only makes you more vulnerable to invading bugs (sometimes in unexpected ways, as described in Avoiding the Airplane Cold), but also makes it harder for you to recover once infected in some way. 

9. Do NOT eat and drink like locals.

Eating and drinking like the locals is an essential and very satisfying part of travel, and to skip this experience is a non-starter for a lot of travelers. But switching up your diet too drastically can topple all but the hardiest constitutions.

10. Eat boiled food.

This is an old traveler's standby; when in doubt, eat only food that is either boiled. Germs will be killed off pretty much universally by boiling. 

11. Before you go abroad, you should take an ample supply of medications.

Consider carrying medication for the common cold; constipation; cuts, scratches, and burns; diarrhea;  indigestion; motion sickness; allergies; pain or fever; sore throat; and malaria prevention. Keep prescription and over-the-counter medications in their original packaging to avoid problems with border officials.

12. If you get sick, don’t rely on your immune system alone.

Most cases of traveler's tummy are caused by strong or unfamiliar bacteria, and the cure for a bacterial infection is to take an antibiotic.

You might think to let your body fight off the bacteria for a while, and only if you don't recover quickly to go see a doctor, but it may be better to get to a doctor more quickly so you don't give the bacteria time to thrive.

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Written by Sapna Vyas Patel , PhD in Nutrition Science and Dietetics
Sapna writes simple, easy to understand articles that are based on pure scientific evidence. She is one of the most popular fitness professionals in India and is followed on social media by fitness enthusiasts, nutritionists, dieticians, doctors, trainers, and professionals.

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