Traveling In Foreign Countries
For those of us who live in the “First World” traveling to
countries that are less developed can be something of a shock in several
ways. There will sometimes be what is
termed a ‘culture shock’ when Western visitors are introduced to different
living conditions and lifestyles. Besides
these cultural differences, there will often be substandard water and food,
which can cause illness. In order to
protect your health, you should prepare yourself adequately when you visit any
nation where conditions are not the same as in your home country.
This will be the first area that must be addressed. The water supply in most countries outside of
North America, Western Europe, and Australia/New Zealand should always be viewed
as being suspect. In most countries
outside these areas if you drink the water, you will get sick. There are several ways to provide yourself
with safe drinking water when the local supply is suspect, and the easiest is
just to purchase bottled water. Make
sure that the bottle is still sealed when you purchase it, however. There are also water bottles with built in filters so you can be sure to know what you are drinking is sanitary.
You can also use water purification tablets to help provide
safe drinking water. These tablets are
based either on iodine or chlorine and will kill most bacteria and
viruses. Iodine tablets will be more
effective, but should not be used for long periods of time.
Boiling water is an effective way to kill all bacteria,
viruses, cysts, and protozoa. Make sure
that you bring the water to a rapid boil for at least 5 minutes.
A portable water filter is also an excellent way to make
sure that the water is safe. There are
several excellent bottle filters on the market that simply need to be filled
and then squeezed to provide you with clean water. A very nice small gravity feed water filter
is made by Berkey water filters that will clean a quart of water at a
Make sure that you use purified water not only for drinking,
but for brushing your teeth and cleaning your contact lenses. It would probably be a good idea to use purified
water for washing your face, too.
Once again, you should always consider the food in a
non-western country to be ‘iffy’ at best.
Never eat raw fruits or vegetables, they could be contaminated with
bacterial or viral agents that could cause dysentery or hepatitis. Make sure that all the food you eat is hot –
cooking will kill most pathogens. Do not
eat food from roadside vendors or any food that you do not see actually being
prepared – there will be no way for you to tell how long it has been sitting
there or whether it has been contaminated by flies or other insects.
The spread of American fast food restaurants will usually
guarantee you of food that is safe to eat.
If you or anyone in your family are taking prescription
medications, be sure to bring an adequate supply with you, as well as a copy of
your prescription. Carry your
medications either in a purse or carry-on bag, do not keep them in the regular
luggage. Any over the counter
medications that are being used should also be brought along as they might not
be available in foreign countries.
While traveling, make sure to always either carry your own first aid kit or know where one is in case of an emergency. You can never be to careful, especially while you are away from home.