For many people who are preparing for a vacation, getting sick is usually the last thing on their mind. But when you travel abroad, particularly to exotic locations with different cultures and cooking methods, there is a very real possibility of being struck down with food poisoning – something that, at best, can leave you confined to the bathroom for a few days and, at worst, land you in hospital. Either way it’ll put a dampener on your trip and with one travel study suggesting that 63% of holidaymakers get sick through preventable illnesses on vacation (12% of that being through food poisoning) it really pays to take care. Here are some ways that you can avoid getting sick on your trip. Plan ahead In the weeks leading up to your trip try and maintain a good standard of health by exercising, eating well and getting a lot of sleep. All of this will boost your immune system leaving your body fighting fit and able to battle against any infections and bacteria that you may come into contact with. Also try and incorporate natural yogurt and probiotic supplements into your diet as these contain ‘good bacteria’ that will line the stomach and help fight off ‘bad bacteria’ – one of the leading causes of food poisoning. Preparation of a different kind includes purchasing a high compensation travel insurance policy. This is absolutely essential for any trip if you want to ensure that you can get compensation for any medical costs incurred while you’re abroad. In severe cases, food poisoning can leave you dehydrated to the point where you need to go on a drip in hospital – the cost of which can be exceptionally high depending on which country you’re in. Dehydration, if left untreated, can lead to severe health problems, one of the symptoms of which can be detected with an electrolyte test. Prepare for every eventuality by covering yourself with travel insurance then if the worst does happen at least you won’t need to worry about the cost. Hone your eating habits Sometimes all it takes is a little common sense to avoid getting ill. A sudden change of climate, food and water is bound to shock the body so go easy for the first few days and try to eat small amounts, particularly in Asian countries such as Thailand or India where the staple foods are generally spicy, rich and heavy – not a good combination with jet lag and hot weather. Having said that, try and eat what the locals eat rather than ordering something typically ‘English’ or obscure from the menu. The chances are that the uncommon types of food on the menu will be made of food that has been lying around, unused for a while. At least you know that local food will be fresher and cooked well. In certain countries you need to be wary of plates and cutlery which may be unclean or washed in unsanitary water. Carry disposable forks around with you if possible and if all else fails, wash your hands and use your fingers – it might be messy but it beats getting ill. Avoid ‘danger foods’ Certain foods are higher risk than others meaning that they support the growth of bacteria quickly and can become dangerous if they aren’t cooked properly or stored within the necessary temperatures. One example of this is seafood which can be particularly nasty if it is undercooked or not fresh. The best way to ensure the freshness of seafood is to pick it straight from the tank! Deep fried food can also be risky if the oil it has been cooked in is old, stale and dirty. Unfortunately you usually can’t taste any difference in the food so avoiding deep fried food might be wise. You should also be wary of frozen dairy products such as ice cream – particularly when they are being sold by street vendors. Often they have not been chilled properly. Asian streetfood is renowned for being authentic and delicious but unless your meal is freshly prepared in front of you then it is hard to know how long it has been left sitting around. Often street vendors make large batches of food which may sit in a vat all day then just be warmed through before serving. This can be unsanitary so pick your meals carefully. If in doubt, opt for food that you can peel, shell or packeted goods from a supermarket. Bottled water Safe tap water is something that we take for granted in America, but in some parts of Asia, Africa and South America this just isn’t the case. In fact unsanitary water is one of the main causes of food poisoning and it doesn’t just come from the tap. Ice cubes, fruits, frozen ice lollies and even crockery/glasses that have been washed in unclean water can harbour germs that can leave you feeling unwell. For peace of mind you should always drink bottled water abroad – it is the only way to ensure that you are keeping hydrated safely. Always check the seal is in tact as it is not unknown for shop/restaurant owners to fill empty bottles with their own tap water in an attempt to keep costs down. Use your eyes Generally it doesn’t take much to recognize when something isn’t quite right. If a restaurant is empty then it’s a good sign that the food may not be great. If a place looks unclean then the kitchen probably will be too. Stick to busier venues and always look around before ordering. Check that your food is cooked throughout before eating and don’t be afraid to ask for a replacement if you’re not happy. None of this can prevent completely against food poisoning but it can give you a far greater chance of avoiding it.