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Food & Water Precautions

Food & Water Precautions

Caused by bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, travelers' diarrhea (TD) can happen anywhere, to anyone, and is rarely life-threatening. It can, however, be a major nuisance and inconvenience.

To treat TD, stay hydrated, use electrolyte replacement, and take anti-diarrhea medication. Seek medical advice for the proper type of medication to take.  To reduce the risk of TD, follow all food and water precautions, and observe basic hygiene practices, such as washing hands and using a hand-sanitizing gel/solution before eating.

For more information about TD and methods of treatment and prevention, refer to the CDC chapter on TD.

Food Precautions

A general rule of thumb, especially in tropical regions: Peel it, cook it, or forget it.

  • Be aware of the risks associated with raw and un-pasteurized food and cheese.
  • Investigate how your food has been prepared.
  • Eat food that has been freshly prepared.
  • Avoid food that has been frozen, thawed, and re-frozen. This includes food that has been repeatedly cooked, refrigerated, and taken out to be cooked again.
  • Avoid food that has been sitting out for some time, e.g. at a buffet.
  • Consume dishes that have been freshly cooked or made after you order them.
  • If a restaurant looks dirty, avoid it. Do not assume that a "western" or U.S. restaurant or chain is necessarily hygienic and safe.
  • Be careful of street vendors. If you are going to experiment with new foods, plan ahead for possible health reactions, such as indigestion or food poisoning. For example, don't try new foods before a long journey.

Water Precautions

Always ask if tap water is safe to drink. If the answer is "No" or "Maybe", avoid tap water, including ice cubes made from tap water and salads and food items washed under or prepared using tap water.

If you have doubts about the quality of the tap water, consume only bottled or boiled water. To avoid fake bottled water, check the seal of any bottled water and make sure that you open bottled beverages yourself. Moreover, brush your teeth with bottled or boiled water only.

For more information about TD and food and water precautions, please refer to: