When travelling in developing nations, it’s well known to avoid drinking tap water, eating undercooked or raw meats and consuming dairy products.
Sometimes, despite taking these safety precautions, many travellers end up with food-related illnesses including traveller’s diarrhoea – turning a dream holiday into a nightmare.
To help you prepare for your next trip abroad, the team of after-hours doctors at home doctor service, House Call Doctor has revealed the hidden foods causing travel illnesses.
What travellers need to know
According to the World Health Organisation, more than 200 diseases are caused by unsafe food containing harmful parasites, viruses, bacteria or chemical substances.
These diseases range from diarrhoea to cancers, with diarrhoeal diseases being the most common illness affecting travellers, causing 550 million people to fall ill and 230,000 deaths each year.
With more than 8.2 million Australians travelling overseas each year, many travellers, particularly first-time travellers are advised to eat only freshly cooked food or peelable fruits.
This piece of health advice has been shared so much so, the rule ‘cook it, peel it or forget it’ is now ago-to for many travellers.
Though, health professionals are warning the ‘peel it’ part of this rule can be misleading as it doesn’t apply to every piece of peelable fruit.
“Travellers are told to stick to foods like bananas, lychees and other tropical fruits to avoid falling ill,” the medical team at House Call Doctor said.
“This is because they have an outer skin to peel away, though what most travellers don’t realise is some fruits with a skin easily absorb table water and can cause food-related illnesses.
“Fruits such as watermelon and pineapple are particularly common for absorbing water and are best to skip when abroad.”
Though falling ill while overseas may simply seem like an uncomfortable situation, there are serious health implications involved.
In late 2017, The World Health Organisation revealed:
- An estimated 600 million, or 1 in 10 people, fall ill across the world after eating contaminated food
- 420,000 people die each year after eating contaminated food
- 33 million healthy life years are lost each year from eating contaminated food.
“Resources including Smart Traveller are available for advice before travelling and you can also consult with your regular GP for further information, including any relevant vaccines you may need before leaving the country,” House Call Doctor said.
“It’s always a good idea to pack medication packed with electrolytes for when you do contract food poisoning.”
Other foods to avoid when overseas:
- Raw meat and seafood – Even in developed countries, undercooked or uncooked meat can pose a serious health risk to overall health.
- Fruit and salad – Fruit like berries and apples and salad items like lettuce and cucumber areoften washed in local water before being eaten, so it’s safest to avoid these to prevent ingesting contaminated water.
- Sauces and condiments – As the ingredients in condiments are often not listed, particularly in restaurants where sauces may be in bowls on tables, there may be products included such as eggs which could pose a risk to your health.
- Dairy products – Unpasteurized products such as milk can be harmful as food regulations tend to vary depending on the country you’re visiting. If the dairy product is unpasteurized, diseases including salmonella, E. coli and listeria may follow.
- Street food – Another common piece of advice is to avoid street food when travelling. Countries such as Thailand have many street vendors featuring the local cuisine, thoughthere are certain risks involved including the cleanliness of the stall, which is why it’s best to steer clear altogether.
- Ice – after a long day sightseeing, it’s tempting to scull back a cold beverage but if you’re in a developing country, steer clear of ice. It’s often just tap water which has been frozen, which can be contaminated, leading to food poisoning.
House Call Doctor is an after-hours home doctor service with a team of experienced medical practitioners across Queensland and northern New South Wales. For more information, visit the House Call Doctor website.
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