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Travel Medicine (cont.)

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What is safe to eat and drink while traveling?

  • The first line of defense against illness at home and abroad is good hand hygiene. Wash hands with soap and uncontaminated water. If water quality is unknown, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% ethanol often and before eating or drinking.
  • In general, it is best not to drink tap water in a developing country.
  • Boiled water and drinks made from boiled water (tea) are usually safe.
  • Carbonated bottled water or sodas are usually safe. Uncarbonated bottled water may be safe, but even bottled water may be filled up from the local tap water source.
  • Iodine tablets or commercially available water filters may be used to purify water when camping.
  • Ice (including flavored shaved ice or popsicles) is not safe in areas where the water supply may be contaminated. Make ice from disinfected or bottled, sealed water.
  • Alcohol (beer, wine) is usually safe.
  • Fruits and vegetables washed in contaminated water may have a residue of bacteria. In general, wash in clean water and peel them yourself.
  • Hot, well-cooked foods are usually safe. Avoid runny eggs.
  • Avoid street vendor food.
  • Avoid salsas and salads made with raw ingredients.
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products.
  • Spices do not kill bacteria. Food can be so spicy that it burns your mouth and still cause traveler's diarrhea or more serious diseases.
  • Foods that put the traveler at high risk for infection include undercooked meat or seafood and bush meat (wild game such as bats, monkeys, other jungle game).

What can I do to avoid insect bites?

  • Wear light, protective clothing.
  • Use insect repellents that contain DEET (most popular brand-name insect repellents in the United States contain DEET), or picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products. Reapply according to directions. When using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and then repellent.
  • If you are hiking, tuck your pant legs into your sock. Check yourself over for ticks at the end of the hike including all creases, navel, and scalp. Many species bite in the nymph stage and are very small. Removing them within 24 hours prevents most infections.
  • Use mosquito nets or window screens if they are available.
  • Products that contain permethrin (NIX, an insect repellent) are available to spray on your clothes or tent for added protection.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/26/2016


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