Whilst You Are Away

Food and water contamination

Probably the greatest risk to overseas travellers is contracting a disease via contaminated food or water. Although usually minor, travellers' diarrhoea affects approximately 50% of travellers. Keep in mind many diseases cannot be vaccinated against and, even when you can, vaccination does not guarantee 100% effectiveness. Your behaviour is most important. Be aware of dehydration (especially in tropical climates) and make sure you drink adequate fluids.

Diseases which can be transmitted via food and water include hepatitis A and E, polio, cholera and typhoid plus the many organisms that cause travellers' diarrhoea.

Travellers' diarrhoea is usually caused by reasonably harmless viruses or bacteria, requiring no specific treatment and lasting only a few days. Minimize your risks:

Follow the rule 'boil it, peel it, cook it or forget it'
Drink only sealed bottled water (including for teeth cleaning) or use water purification method (bottled soft drinks and alcohol are usually OK)
Avoid ice in drinks.
Avoid raw foods (e.g. salads)
Avoid shellfish and raw seafood.
Avoid any undercooked foods or food that has been sitting for long periods of time.
Only eat fruit you can peel yourself
Eat freshly cooked and well-cooked food
Avoid milk and milk products.
Avoid precooked meals left to sit (e.g. on display)
Generally meat, rice, noodles and vegetables that are freshly and thoroughly cooked are the safest.
Check with other travellers for safe, reputable places to eat.

If travellers' diarrhoea does occur, the recommended treatment is:

Mild Symptoms & Managment:

Not overly unwell: Maintain hydration via safe water and re hydration solution (Gastrolyte)

No Blood in Faeces: Avoid alcohol, caffeine, beverages, fatty foods, meats and dairy products until illness finishes.

No Fever: Eat starchy foods (i.e., rice, dry biscuits)

1-3 Bowel actions per day: Rest

Moderate to Severe Symptoms

3 plus watery bowel actions per day: Follow general guidelines as above

Feel extremely unwell: If antibiotics have been given to you, take as directed (if fever over 38°c)

No fever developed: Take anti-diarrhoea medication as directed

Blood in bowel actions: Seek medical advice (especially if blood in bowel actions)

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