We’ve all heard about Delhi Belly, the illness that strikes down shocking cases of diarrhea and food poisoning onto unsuspecting wanderers. I’ve had friends trekking Nepal fall victim to the cruel belly after being fed by well-intentioned villagers, resulting in a pair of pants being ruined beyond repair. Other friends have been brought down in India after eating curry from a street stall before boarding a 13 hour night train.
Some of the common symptoms are nausea, diarrhea, cramps, and vomiting, often leading to severe dehydration and malnutrition.
So how do you avoid getting sick? First it’s important to know where you’re most at risk. Countries with higher risk of serving you food that contains nasty, diarrhea-inducing bacteria include most developing countries, such as those in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Moderately risky countries include some of the islands in the Caribbean, those in Eastern Europe, South Africa, Argentina, and Chile. The US, Canada, Northern and Western Europe, New Zealand, and Australia are all relatively low risk destinations.
Secondly, it’s important to know what foods are most associated with Delhi Belly. The most common problem while travelling is drinking water (this also includes ice). Raw foods, seafood and unpasteurised dairy products can also be problems. Always check labels to see if the products have been pasteurised, and try to buy fruit and vegetables that you can peel yourself. Also, salads in high risk countries can be a problem, as the raw vegetables are likely to be washed in unclean water. Check the seals when purchasing bottled water, and If you’re eating at local markets the safest things to order are items that you can see being cooked in front of you, that way you know for sure that it’s being cooked fresh and any nasty bacteria is killed.
Obviously food is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in another country’s culture (Italy and pizza anyone?) so avoiding all local food is a bit
wankerish unreasonable. However be sure to order smart so you don’t end up curled up next to the toilet for 2-5 days of your holiday.
If you do find yourself being taken by the dreaded belly, try not to cry, as the symptoms will usually clear themselves up after a few days. Remember keeping hydrated is your main priority, as it will help you recover faster. Avoid tea, coffee, fizzy drinks, and alcohol until you’re back on your feet. To help relieve symptoms, you can also grab some Pepto Bismal or Imodium from a local pharmacy, however keep in mind that these don’t cure the problem, but can make you constipated as a result of stopping the ‘flow’. If symptoms persist, or you have a fever, or you can’t keep down water, or there is blood in your vomit or stool, visit a doctor or a hospital for extra medical attention.