By Vicky Anscombe on 08 April 2015

We all know the symptoms; a few hours (or even a few minutes, if you’re really unlucky) after that tasty meal, you start to feel a bit cold and tired. You’ll head to bed, thinking you’ve caught the sun, and the rest is history. It mainly involves a lot of time in the toilet feeling pretty terrible.

Lots of people catch a bug on their holidays, and the severity of their symptoms can vary from an uncomfortable night to spending days in bed losing fluid at an alarming rate. If you do catch a bug, it might just be bad luck - but here are some ways of lessening your chances of getting poorly.

  • There’s limited proof that it works, but two weeks before you leave, try to eat some probiotic foods to strengthen the ‘good’ bacteria in your gut. Lots of travellers swear by this method, but it’s not failsafe, so you’ll still have to exercise caution.

  • Wash your hands properly before eating and after every time you go to the toilet. And don’t just wet them then shake them - give them a thorough scrub with hot water and soap, including under your nails and around your wrists and forearms.
  • Always carry hand sanitiser in case hot water and soap isn’t available. Use it often, especially before eating and after using the toilet.

  • Wash your hands after handling money and using public transport.

  • Only drink bottled water, never tap water, even if you think the restaurant or hotel you’re in is clean enough. Never have ice in your drinks and beware of salads that may have been washed in tap water. Boiled water (e.g. for teas and coffees) should be fine; however, bear in mind that many bugs can survive an encounter with an ice machine.

  • Don't eat anything that hasn't been cooked or peeled immediately prior to eating. That includes bread, unless it is fresh bread, or just unwrapped. For fruit and vegetables, if you can't peel it, don't eat it.

  • Don’t eat at roadside stands; you have no idea how long the food has been sitting there. Stick with better restaurants which have a good reputation or cook for yourself if you have an apartment. Choose restaurants that are busy; there’s a smaller chance the food they sell has just been lying around.

  • If you can, only order vegetarian foods. Meats that have been undercooked or have been out in the sun all day will have attracted flies and other nasties; plus, undercooked meats will make you very poorly. Peeled fresh raw veg is less likely to.

  • If someone you’re travelling with or your partner falls ill, make sure they stay as rested as possible, and wear latex gloves and a face mask when you’re nursing them. It’s vital they wash their hands thoroughly after the toilet; they’ll need their own sponge, hand towel and soap as well. Try to keep them as isolated as they’re comfortable with while their illness is at its worst; change their bedding as often as you can and don’t touch your eyes or your mouth after you’ve been with them.

  • Finally, many travel message boards are rife with people being ill after drinking milkshakes, or eating well-known fast food brands such as McDonalds. Our advice? Stick to local food and only eat at places which feel ‘right’ to you; if you sense that something isn’t right, find somewhere else to eat.

If, despite all your best efforts, you do get stuck with a bad stomach bug, you’ll want travel insurance that covers you for medical treatment and hospitalisation. Check out our Bali and Thailand travel insurance pages to find out more about common claims and cover for these regions.

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