Travelers Stomach - What To Do If You Get Sick Abroad by:Gary Sargent
Exotic locations in Latin America unfortunately often come with their share of exotic problems. Many of us are happy to avoid the pleasure of wailing into a toilet bowl at 2am in the morning after an ill-advised 'seafood experience', but if you're determined to get out and 'live it local' then sooner or later it is something you'll have to deal with. If you're planning an action packed itinerary to make the most of your vacation in Latin America, the last thing you need is to get sick, so here is some advice to help you spend more time enjoying your trip than cursing from the comfort of your en suite bathroom.
The food in many parts of Latin America, particularly Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico is excellent. However make sure you take the advice of your travel company to avoid any real health issues and maximise the enjoyment of your vacation.
Prepare for the worst - Travel Insurance
As well as stomach trouble, you can pick up a variety of unpleasant conditions if you're getting stuck in to your destination; its always best to have it covered if things go wrong. Ensure that your travel insurance, if purchased independently, includes medical care. Ask an insurance advisor or your tour operator if you need any destination-specific advice and do not simply rely on the cover given by your credit card as this is often not adecuate!
Get a portable medication kit for your destination
A destination guidebook, your tour operator or your doctor should be able to advise on the contents of a simple portable medical kit to cover the most common ailments while abroad, including digestive issues. It shouldn't take up too much packing space and could make life a lot more bearable when you are tearing frantically through your luggage trying to find something to ease any discomfort.
Take it easy the week before leaving
Your body is pretty incredible; in many cases it has the ability to resist disease, infection and the variety of nasty things that you put into it. However, if you've been burning the candle at both ends to get all your work finished before your vacation or attending a string of leaving parties before flying out, your immune system could be weak, making you much more susceptible to problems.
A great way to pick up germs and all manner of nasties is from your hands. A simple alcohol or anti-bacterial gel or spray to clean them before meals or after going to the bathroom will reduce the chance of something unwanted finding its way into your mouth.
There are common culprits that have brought unwanted bacteria and diseases to the stomach lining of travellers over the years. Whilst if can be a great experience to eat vendor food out on the street of a foreign country, if you don't have a few weeks to go through the roller coaster of allowing your stomach to adjust it is probably worth taking a safer option. Typically dubious options for food are raw or undercooked meat, poultry, raw fruit and vegetables and dairy products. Water is often a source of problems in Latin American countries, so try to drink bottled water and avoid ice, as this is often made from tap water. If you are determined to eat local snacks, try to do so earlier in the day when they are still fresh.
Hopefully you're not reading this on a Blackberry whilst heaving in a toilet cubicle, but it's good to have a plan if things go wrong; remember these simple steps to get on the road to recovery fast.
1. Get back to your hotel and rest
2. Tell your tour company local contact, a friend or someone at reception to keep an eye on you and inform them of any medication taken or allergies in case a doctor needs to be informed
3. Drink lots of water and use re-hydration salts from your medication kit. Take a couple of painkillers if necessary.
4. Many stomach problems can be resolved in 72 hours, but if your condition is still the same after 3 days or there is any blood involved, contact a physician as recommended by your tour operator, guide or hotel.
Getting sick is certainly not a desired outcome of any one's trip, but at least you can take comfort in the fact that going on an international adventure is pushing you out of your comfort zone and developing you as a person.
About the author
Gary Sargent is the Managing Director of the tour companies Escaped to Peru and Escaped to Latin America and has lived in South America for over 10 years. Gary is passionate about life here, the people, customs and places. To learn more or to book your next adventure please visit http://www.escapedtolatinamerica.com