Many illnesses, including traveller’s diarrhoea, hepatitis A, typhoid and cholera are contracted through contaminated food and water. When travelling abroad particularly in countries where sanitation is poor it is important to follow strict food and water precautions and pay careful attention to personal hygiene to reduce the risk of infection.

You can reduce the risk of food and water-borne diseases by following some basic guidelines.

Water

If you have any doubts about the water available for drinking, washing food or cleaning teeth; boil it, sterilise it with disinfectant tablets or use bottled water, preferably carbonated with gas – always check that the seal on the bottle/container is tamper proof and intact.

  • Avoid ice unless you are sure it is made from treated and chlorinated water. This includes ice used to keep food cool as well as ice in drinks.
  • It is usually safe to drink hot tea or coffee, wine, beer, bottled carbonated water and soft drinks, and packaged or bottled fruit juices. Make sure that all bottled drinks have an intact seal.

Food

Always wash your hands after going to the toilet, before handling food and before eating. Certain foods are prone to higher risks of contamination and generally should be avoided.

  • Avoid foods which have been kept warm, allowed to stand at ambient room temperatures, or exposed to flies, such as open buffets.
  • Only eat food that has been freshly and thoroughly cooked and is still piping hot. Consumption of food and beverages from street vendors has been associated with an increased risk of illness.
  • Uncooked food including salads, fruit and vegetables should be avoided, unless you can peel or shell it yourself. Foods that grow close to the ground are often contaminated.
  • Fish and shellfish can be suspect in some countries. Raw and undercooked fish and shellfish such as oysters are a particular hazard.
  • Avoid ice cream from unreliable sources, such as street traders and kiosks.
  • Avoid unpasteurised milk, cheese and other dairy products.

Remember:

  • Boil it
  • Cook it
  • Peel it
  • or Forget it!

Recreational water:

A variety of different illnesses such as schistosomiasis, leptospirosis, legionnaires disease and gastrointestinal infections can be contracted by ingesting, inhaling or having contact with contaminated water while swimming, wading or participating in other recreational water activities in oceans, lakes, rivers, swimming pools and hot tubs.

  • Only swim in chlorinated water or that which is unlikely to be contaminated with sewage.
  • To protect other swimmers, children and adults with diarrhoea should not swim or wade in water to avoid contaminating it.
  • Some bacteria’s for example legionella or pseudomonas can multiple in warm water facilities where disinfectant levels are not properly maintained, avoid recreational water venues like hot tubs if the water is visibly cloudy.
  • Avoid swallowing any water whilst swimming or participating in recreational water activities. If in freshwater, wear a nose clip and try not to submerge your face or head.
  • Avoid swimming with open cuts, abrasions or other wounds that may allow bacteria or viruses to gain entry.
  • Do not bath or wade in water that may be contaminated with human or animal excrement, particularly near storm drains, after heavy rain fall, or in schistosomiasis-endemic areas of the Caribbean, South America, Africa and Asia.

Further information for travellers is available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre – www.nathnac.org.

This leaflet has been prepared by Sanofi Pasteur MSD to provide general information on issues relating to healthy travel. It is not meant as an alternative to individual advice and should be used in conjunction with advice provided for you by a health care professional.

June 2012