I love watching travel shows. They excite me. They give me new ideas of things to do, places to see, they get my travel bug new material. But, only once on an Anthony Bordain show have I ever heard about travelers becoming sick from their voyages. Thank you Anthony Bordain for keeping it real.
Getting sick abroad is real folks. I am not proud to say that I’ve been in ERs in 3 continents for broken bones and can comment about health care systems around the world. That’s another story. But, intestinal parasites are real and they are painful and they can stop you in your traveling tracks.
My first encounter with parasites was with my darling John in Rio during Carnival. It’s hard to track where we could have gotten parasites because in retrospect, their were so many opportunities. It could have been from the water from the hotel, which I drank liberally and oftentimes poured out with an orange tint. It could have been from the feijoada (a traditional black bean stew) which we bought off the street in a barrio. It was amazing and I could have eaten it for days. The lady who made it served it from a giant beaten old tin pot. So amazing. We could have gotten sick from numerous caipirinha’s that we bought out of the backs of people’s cars. Various vendors made this concoction from ice, sugar, and limes from their cars, from little carts, from anything that would hold the ingredients. They were worth the parasites as well.
Nevertheless, a few days before returning back to the states, our stomaches were bloated and hurt, we had to make very frequent trips to the restroom, we were exhausted and lethargic, and we didn’t have an appetite. John joked that we picked up a tape worm. Back in the states, the official answer was giardia. In fact, even the dogs contracted it. We were all on strong antibiotics. The kind of antibiotics that you can’t even use mouth wash because the traces of alcohol in the mouthwash would cause you to wretch. 1 week this lasted. It was brutal. Giardia is no joke people and we have encountered various parasites in a number of countries. And I have to say that it pisses me off that you don’t hear more about this. When talking to some of my well traveled friends, we have all had these experiences. After laughing about our shared misery, we came up with a list of preventive measures to pass along:
- Never, never, never drink anything with ice.
- When outside the U.S. and Western European countries, only drink bottled water and make sure that the seal isn’t broken on the bottle.
- Be really careful about eating fruits and vegetables. Sure, being healthy is great but, a lot of bacteria and parasites are found here.
- Make sure your food is cooked well.
- I should shy away from pork outside of the U.S. Actually, that’s not true. I would avoid it like meat riddled with maggots.
- In some countries, as much as I love street food and eating like locals, I avoid it now because it’s probably going to make you sick. Isn’t that awful! Just keep this in mind when you’re about to sink your teeth into a bowl full of amazing feijoada in the back alleys of Rio.
- I bring your own supply of antibiotics so I can start my course of treatment if necessary. Of course, I’m no MD and this isn’t medical advice. This is my legal disclaimer you happy litigious, sue crazy people so I better not hear from any knuckleheads.
- Wash your hands like your life depended on it and be mindful of everything you touch.