Important information on drinking water hygiene

Vacationers in countries with uncertain water hygiene should avoid drinking tap water or untreated water from other sources. Industrially bottled beverages and such boiled beverages as tea and coffee are generally safe. Carbonated soft drinks are safer than uncarbonated liquids. On longer trips in the country while becoming accustomed to the local water and other beverages some diarrhea is unavoidable. Regular boiling is the best and safest method for securing flawless drinking water. Water that has been brought to a rolling boil is virtually free of infectious germs, as this method destroys bacteria, amoebas and also hepatitis A viruses. Many hotels in Asia supply their guests, on request, with pre-boiled water, which can be used for drinking and cleaning the teeth. If no other water is available, then hot tap water (if it isn't too hot to touch!) can be collected and cooled down. This provides a somewhat safe substitute for boiled water. Ice cubes are only as safe as the water they are made with. They should not be put in beverages unless they can be regarded as absolutely safe. Drinks can also be chilled by placing the whole glass in ice.

Drinking water: purification, filtering and disinfection

Water purification begins with the selection of the cleanest possible source. This will probably be tap, well, rain or spring water. Open bodies of water should not be used in normal circumstances. If the water cannot be boiled, it should be filtered and then chemically purified. A thick cotton cloth, folded over several times, can serve as a simple filter for the removal of floating particles. The better way is to use commercially available filter pumps, although they are somewhat expensive and need to be regularly cleaned. These devices remove most of the germs from the water. Some of them are impregnated with silver, which has an additional anti-bacterial effect. Chemical disinfectants are easy to use and have proven highly effective on clear water. They can also be used to preserve already purified water. Silver nitrate is tasteless and works reliably in two hours. Its effect on amoeba cysts however, is limited. Chlorine is the most frequently used disinfectant. It is very effective on bacteria and some viruses, however it is only effective on amoeba cysts in a ten-fold concentration. To kill schistosomes, the flukes that cause bilharziosis, ll that is needed is to store the water in a dark place for three days.


Important information on food hygiene

Food purchased in countries with inadequate hygiene conditions should at first always be regarded as potentially infectious. Whenever possible you should only eat freshly peeled and cooked foods. In most tropical countries, the soil is fertilized with human fecal matter. This is why fruits and vegetables should be at least thoroughly cleansed with soap and water and then rinsed. It is even better to follow this by placing them in chlorinated water (triple concentration as for the preparation of drinking water!). Eating raw meat and fish, as well as salads made of unpeeled vegetables should definitely be avoided. If the social situation should force a salad on you, the generous addition of vinegar or lemon juice can somewhat reduce the risk of infection. Unpasteurized milk should also be either boiled or avoided.
There now follows a short comparison of some foods and beverages that can be fundamentally recommended, questionable foods, or foods which should definitely be avoided. A few principles of proper nourishment can be derived from this. Needless to say, a sensible adjustment to the given travel situation and local conditions allow for a completely different menu.

To be recommended:
  • all freshly cooked and broiled (e.g. well done, broiled lean meat, potatoes, noodles, rice, soups, also beans, peas, onions, etc.)
  • peelable fruit (e.g. oranges, bananas, mangoes, pineapples, coconuts)
  • tea and coffee, industrially produced soft drinks and mineral water
  • spices and essences (pepper, chili, salt, curry, vinegar, vegetable oil)
To be recommended:
  • poultry, fish, shellfish, shrimp, crawfish, mussels
  • dairy products of all kinds (fresh milk, yoghurt, cheese, cottage cheese)
  • frozen foods (possible interruption in the refrigeration chain!)
To be recommended:
  • raw meat (e.g. tartar) or raw fish (e.g. oysters)
  • raw, cold, stale foods, ham, sausage, salads
  • oily or fatty foods (e.g. potato salad with mayonnaise, egg sandwiches)
  • ice cubes, ice cream and sherbet, open chilled beverages from non-industrial sources.
  • foods packed in plastic foil, such as cut fruit.
…have a healthy trip!

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