Traveling to developing countries, or any country, as a matter of fact, has major drawbacks and food poisoning is one of them. It is a traveler’s worst nightmare. This might feel goofy somehow, but, when you are traveling to a new country, the chances of suffering from food poisoning are extremely high. This has high chances of happening especially when you eat something that you have never tasted before. But keep in mind, this should not stop you from traveling to any country and tasting the local delicacies. Fortunately enough, getting food poisoning while traveling isn't inescapable.
Nepal is known for its delicious and mouthwatering cuisines. Some of the local favorites include Chiura (beaten rice) fried up with eggs and onions, Bara (a type of pancake), Samosa, Mo: Mo: (a dumpling of meat and veggies), noodles, etc. These local foods are generally much safer than foreign food as they are prepared on a daily basis and people are quite used to the cooking process. Also, the majority of these foods here are cooked in high heat to kill any kind of germs. Moreover, in Nepal, freshly prepared cooked food are preferred over raw and undercooked ones. Nonetheless, the chance of suffering from food poisoning cannot be neglected.
Food poisoning/illness is usually caused by eating contaminated foods that may have any kind of toxin and infectious organisms like bacteria, viruses, or even parasites. It usually occurs when foods aren’t handled in a proper way. Normally, its symptoms vary from the source of contamination and pop up between 30 minutes to 6 hours after the consumption of food/drink in question. Here are a few of the most common signs and symptoms of food-borne illness:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Watery or bloody diarrhea or even dysentery
- Cramps and upper abdominal pain
As a traveler, it is quite obvious to have a feeling of sudden joy when finding a local delicacy. While your taste buds may go berserk at the thought of tasting new delicacies, it is also important to have some restraints. Similarly, having a sensible mindset is equally important as well. You should be extremely wise about your choices, especially when it comes to food and trying local cuisines for the entirety of your travel. One should always think about the possible consequences before trying any kind of unhealthy food. Especially in Nepal, the chances of diarrhea and dysentery are extremely high; so, visitors are highly recommended to be a bit cautious about eating in local street-side eateries. A mild case of agitation in the stomach is not a thing to worry about. However, in worst cases, even such light agitation may affect your trip completely. Other than this there are few tips and preventive measures that minimize the risk of food poisoning. These approaches are uniquely suitable for Nepal and also speed up the recovery process.
One of the best things you can do is avoid eating any kind of contaminated food. Raw and uncooked foods should be completely averted. The probability of these snacks containing germs is extreme high; so, major precautions are to be taken. This should be taken seriously especially when you are traveling with children and elderly people as their immune system is comparatively weaker. Also, avoid using ice beverages in your refreshment drinks as the chances of tap water being used for it are extremely high.
Dairy products can be very delicious; however, they can go off easily and cause serious illness. Properly heated milk is okay to use. So, if you want to milk in your tea or coffee, make sure that it is properly boiled first. Curd and yogurt are also delicacies in Nepal; so, you should be wary of eating curd which exceeds the expiration date. Similarly, if you are having an ice-cream, make sure to check the shape, and packaging to see if it looks to have been melted and then refrozen.
In Nepali customs, people usually dine with their hands. Consuming your food with dirty hands full of bacteria can be a major reason behind stomach aches that may further lead to food poisoning. So, carrying a sanitizer is a must. You should compulsorily sanitize your hands before eating and even after washing it with the tap water as such water may have lots of bacteria in it. Especially, when you are going on a long trek, it is must to add a sanitizer in your first-aid kit. This can be helpful when you are in a pinch while traveling.
One cannot drink tap water without treating it properly in Nepal. Use water purification, refinement tablets, or fluids when you head out to rural areas. While local people might be fine drinking tap water, you are highly suggested not to take the risk. It's better to use chlorine as it guarantees that the water you are taking is safe to drink. Boiling the water is another effective way to purify it when you are going on a trek. Chlorine-sterilized water isn't tasty; yet, it is better than spending hours in the toilet. Piyush drops (chlorine package) can be found effectively in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
If, unfortunately, you do suffer from water-borne diseases, make sure to drink a lot of water and take oral rehydration salts (ORS), also known as electrolytes. These can be purchased at any drug store. (Tip: the orange parcel brands with the formula provided by medical institutions are better than others!) Also, take a few ORS parcels along with you on your trips. These will help you with hydration and also help you to limit altitude sickness from further worsening while trekking in higher altitude.
It's another effective way to reduce any kind of agitation in the stomach. In case you want to eat something raw, it ideal to sterilize it before the consumption. First, you should scrub the food item properly to remove any kind of dirt and then further soak it in warm water with iodine or chlorine to kill any bacteria/viruses on its skin. Similarly, you should also sterilize any portable utensils when you have to use them. Milk should be boiled properly to pasteurize it; especially, when you are in village areas.
To wrap things up, in the event that you are confused or you don't know about where to eat, or what to eat, you should refrain from eating at nearby local eateries. Any negligence can cause you to come up short of accomplishing your travel goals in Nepal. Also, make sure to visit a pharmacy or your local medical specialist, for any fundamental vaccines, like hepatitis A. Such food-borne diseases and illnesses can spread through water or contaminated food.
How to Treat Food Poisoning While Traveling?
Note that: Prevention is always better than cure; however, if you suffer from mild or extreme cases of food poisoning then, counter medicines like Pepto-Bismol or Imodium can be quite helpful. It reduces nausea and diarrhea, and help you to regain your strength as well. Similarly, in a condition where there aren't any pharmacies or convenient place to buy medicines (during treks to higher altitude), you can use some low-tech remedies. The first step is to start rehydrating. During food poisoning, there is a high chance of dehydration as you lose a lot of fluids during diarrhea and vomiting. So, the first thing you should do is start rehydrating. Always stick to boiled or bottled water in such case.
Taking electrolytes is also a must. Add 6 teaspoons of sugar and one teaspoon of salt in boiled water. Let it cool down for a few minutes and start drinking it slowly. Keep up with the fluids and skip any kind of heavy food/ drinks that may irritate your intestine. Meat beverages should be completely avoided for at least 6 days. Consume warm and healthy food like soup, toast, rice, and cracker. They also contain a high amount of sodium, which may help your body replenish the electrolytes.
Nonetheless, in severe case, it's a must to visit the doctor. If you seek any of the following symptoms then immediately seek medical attention.
- Bloody vomit and stool.
- Inability to take liquids and frequent vomiting.
- Diarrhea for more than 36 hours.
- Any kind of neurological symptoms like weakening of muscle, blurry vision or tingling in the arms.
- Excessive thirst, little or no urination, dizziness or lightheadedness.
- Extreme fever (above 100.4 F).
Regardless of following the precautions, sometimes, one can get infected with food poisoning, and water and foodborne diseases. These situations demand immediate response to make sure that your health and travel schedule are not adversely affected by it. Hospitals are easily accessible in cities whereas, villages also offer health posts and clinics to look after such diseases. It cannot be stressed enough that medications should be the last but a mandatory resort for food poisoning and similar illnesses.
Hence, food poisoning is something that you should be extremely careful about while you are traveling through the rural regions of Nepal. However, it should not be a reason to back out from your trip and travel goals and always note that prevention is better than cure. The more attention you pay to your health, the more you enjoy your trips. Travel without hesitation and enjoy Nepali cuisines with ample precautions.