With over 2.1 million* British tourists suffering from food related illnesses each year it is important to ensure that you are taking precautions when dining abroad. Food poisoning can be endemic in all-inclusive resorts and hotels where buffet style food is served, combine this with street food vendors and poor hygiene standards in some countries and there is evidently a real problem for holidaymakers.
The most common cause for food poisoning amongst British tourists is undercooked poultry contributing to 244,000** cases a year. This is closely followed by beef, lamb, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Most cases of food poisoning will pass with self-medication, however in more severe cases medical attention may be necessary. With the absence of the NHS, the cost of medical treatment abroad can quickly rise into the thousands. By making sure you have medical expenses cover on your travel insurance policy, as well as your EHIC if you are travelling in the EU, you can ensure that should the worst happen you will not be left considerably out of pocket.
If you are heading abroad we have some top tips to help prevent food poisoning:
– Use bottled or sterilised water, especially if you are unsure about the safety of local tap water. Bottled water is sold in most resorts or can be found in local stores.
– Decline ice in your drink if it is offered by the bar staff. Hotels are known for freezing their tap water to make ice, as we do in the UK, but as mentioned above this water may not be safe for people to drink and can make you ill.
– Ensure that your food is fresh and served piping hot if required, food that is lukewarm or that has been sitting in a warm environment for a long period of time is likely to contain harmful bacteria.
– Avoid undercooked food. In some European countries things like steaks can be undercooked even if you ask for it in your usual way, so a great tip is to ask for your food to be cooked a little more than you usually would at home, for example – asking for medium rather than medium-rare.
– Be careful with fish and shellfish, undercooked fish can be incredibly harmful so be sure to check it has been cooked correctly prior to consuming. Also, when asking for shellfish such as crab and prawns shell them yourself so that you can inspect them prior to eating.
– Avoid salads unless they have been freshly prepared in site, as some hotels and restaurants may wash the ingredients in tap water.
– Purchase ice creams from shops or cafes rather than portable ice cream sellers such as vans or carts as you cannot guarantee that they have adequate refrigeration. Ice cream that has melted and been refrozen is especially harmful to the body.
Although the majority of sickness abroad is cause by consuming infected or undercooked foods, untreated pool or hot tub water can also cause health problems. Illnesses such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella and Norovirus are contracted from unclean bathing water and can be resistant against chlorine.
Other infections such as swimmers’ ear, Legionella, skin rashes and eye infections can also occur if the pool is not regularly treated. Most hotels and resorts check their pool daily, usually early in the morning ahead of the busy pool periods.
Floating across the pool or taking a dip hot tub is something to be enjoyed whilst on holiday, but here are some things to consider:
– Never dive into a pool or hot tub, whilst this may sound tempting – especially on a hot day – it is always best to explore the pool first and find the deeper areas which indicate it is safe for jumping in and diving.
– Try to avoid swallowing the pool water as the chemicals and bacteria can make you ill.
– To help protect yourself from infections such as eye and ear infections wear googles, ear plugs and nose clips which can be purchased at most popular sports stores or chemists.
– Test the water yourself. There are pool testing kits available online and in shops so should you have any concerns about the clarity or cleanliness of the water, you can test it yourself prior to swimming.
– Watch out for bugs and insects in the pool. If you spot one floating on the pool, inform staff immediately to get it removed. In addition to this, look out for mosquitos and ensure you are wearing repellent.
Avoid the pool if you have open wounds or active infections as they can be further infected by the chemicals used in the pool. With infections such as impetigo or verruca’s, these can be spread and caught in water so bear this in mind.
– If you notice any human waste in the pool, do not enter the pool and inform resort staff immediately as it will need to be removed and the pool may need further treatment before it is safe for swimming.
*stat taken from The Travel Magazine
**stat taken from Leigh Day