March 30, 2017

How To Avoid Food Poisoning on Your Vacation

Food Poisoning

I take pride in the fact that I have never been admitted to a hospital – that is until 2009. Sure, I had frequent trips to the ER but I manage to go home after resting a bit on the ER bed. It was my first time to be admitted for a condition I could have easily avoided. Also, I was on vacation with my husband and we lost 1 day because yes, I was in no condition to enjoy the rest of our trip.

We were in Boracay in 2009 for our anniversary trip. We booked 4 days and 3 nights since we wanted to unwind and really enjoy what the island has to offer. We had activities lined up and we knew exactly what we would do from Day 1 through 4. However, my gut disagrees. Second night, we were strolling on the beach and we came across a stall selling barbecued everything – pork and chicken meat, hotdog, innards (yes!) like liver, guts, and all those stuff others find icky but Pinoys love.

So I got myself grilled chicken liver (the last one they have), and I refused to share it with my husband. In less than 2 hours, we were back in our hotel room, my world was turned upside down, I couldn’t stop my bathroom trips, let alone the number of times I threw up. I was a mess. I took medicine and things went okay for a bit, I fell asleep. I was woken by another bout, this time I barely made it to the bathroom and that’s when we decided I have to seek medical attention. We asked around and we were told there was a hospital (actually a lying-in clinic/hospital/small clinic) nearby.

I was admitted, my first time to get an IV needle insertion, away from home, and where no one knows us (I didn’t get visitors, obviously). Diagnosis: food poisoning.

So now, I want to share with you tips on how to avoid food poisoning while on vacation.

1. Look for food that is hot and steaming.

Hot temperatures kill germs that cause digestive illnesses. Cool or lukewarm temps on the other hand, encourage their growth. When deciding on food, look for items that are steaming or smoking with heat. This is more likely to guarantee it’s fresh, or at least hot!

2. Eat where it’s busy & locals are dining.

A restaurant that’s serving local people and is well-visited usually means a higher turnover of food. Higher food turnover = greater freshness, and less likelihood that it’s been sitting around at unsafe temps!

3. Watch for signs of food hygiene.

Here are some things to look for:

  • Tongs or utensils used to handle food
  • Food covers or protectors such as saran wrap, pot lids, or spinning fans to keep flies off
  • Dishes being made fresh (as opposed to already sitting out)
  • Food is steaming/smoking hot
  • Gloves and/or hair covers are in use
  • Sinks with soap and water for staff

4. Wash YOUR hands!

Your very own fingers can be responsible for picking up tummy-gurgling bacteria and stuffing it straight into your body. Always try to wash your hands before you eat and/or use sanitizer at the very least!

5. Drink safe water & ice.

Unclean water is a common source of illness for travellers.

6. Opt for fruits and veggies with peels.

Fruit and veggies can pose a risk for illness because the skins can hold onto germs you can’t see. This can come from soil, feces, unclean hands, or being washed in contaminated water.

Given this, the safest options for fruits and veggies include those with peels, as this removes potential contaminant “holders” revealing an untouched inside for eating.

7. Check that meat is cooked & stored safely.

  • Look at how the meat is stored and handled
  • Is it kept cool, on ice, or in a fridge? If at room temp, how long has it likely been there (i.e. how busy is the vendor)?
  • Is the meat covered? Are bugs being kept off (e.g. with fans or lids), or are flies freely landing on it?
  • Check if & how the meat is cooked and kept warm.
  • Look at the inside of the meat. Is it pink or raw looking? Is it hot, or just cool/lukewarm?
  • How is it cooked? Is it being kept over a few measly coals or a blazing fire?
  • How do you know if you have food poisoning?

The signs and symptoms are fairly simple and can include any of the following:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle aches

So now you have an idea of what food/restaurants to watch out for during your travel. Don’t let this hinder you from enjoying your trip, though. Just be careful and have fun!

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Wayne B. | Pinoy Trends

Wayne is a mom to a toddler. She's passionate about breastfeeding. She loves movies and series, action, sci-fi and fantasy. Not so much on love stories. She is a kitchen scientist. Pet peeve: know-it-all.