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Avoiding Montezuma's Revenge

Chicago
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Avoiding Montezuma's Revenge

I have not seen any mention of the bacterial illness that travelers often get. Is that because it is now so easy to avoid? I heard things like you shouldn't let sink water touch your lips during your shower, nor should you use tap water to brush your teeth let alone drink it. What about eating lettuce in salads, on sandwiches?

Are ice cubes in cocktails a problem? Does alcohol help? How careful do I have to be? I do have a pretty sensitive system and don't want to spend my vacation indoors. Any advise? Are these old wives tales?

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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1. Re: Avoiding Montezuma's Revenge

Yes, you should avoid drinking any tap water while on Isla - that is one good thing to know. Your own hand cleanliness is probably one of the most important factors in staying healthy - use wipes or wash your hands before you eat or drink anything. Drinking lots of water is good for you - it is a hot climate and bottled water is available just about everywhere on Isla.

We do take acidophilus in tablet form - starting about a week prior to our trip and daily while traveling - it is the good bacteria found in yogurt and helps add digestion and prevent any tummy troubles. The fruits and veggies served in restaurants is washed and the ice is safe - no problems there. If you buy from any local market, your fruits & veggies should be rinsed with microdyne, which you can find in the local supermarket.

We have followed these simple rules and eat everywhere on Isla - at the market, street vendors, beach food and restaurants and haven't ever gotten sick. So go and enjoy all the great food that Isla offers. :)

Texas
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2. Re: Avoiding Montezuma's Revenge

It's more often referred to as "tourista" because Mexicans get it just as often when visiting the USA. In addition to coalminer's advice, especially about hand washing, know that many hotels place 5 gallon water coolers in rooms--containing pure filtered water. All hotels make their ice with filtered water too. We carried pink pepto-bismol tablets and immodium with us, but didn't need them. The pharmacy also carries heavy duty remedies should a bacteria bite you.

Oh, and to answer your other question, YES alcohol helps (the fun) but too much help might cause even more problems. It will be hot and you need to stay hydrated, so drink lots of filtered water. And try some flavors of agua fresca too!

Texas
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3. Re: Avoiding Montezuma's Revenge

I meant to say above that both hotels and restaurants are very good about using filtered water and ice (and serving safe lettuce, veggies and fruit). It's simply a matter of good business for them to do so.

USA
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4. Re: Avoiding Montezuma's Revenge

As noted, the hotels have a big stake in keeping you healthy. Everytime someone leaves a lurid post about getting really sick that resort probably loses 10 reservations. Ice and salads are going to be safe most anywhere. The crack about alcohol was a joke. It doesn't sterilize the gut. Acidofilous or any similar are a good idea. really populate your gut with your bacteria so others have a hard time getting a foothold. But that is probably only for a few days. Take some waterless hand cleaner...but it's not a wonder drug. MONEY... lots and lots of bacteria. One old wive's tale that is true. SKIN... its evil vicious stuff. YOURs... perfect conditions for growing salmonella. Wipe your hand across your forehead and you have picked up millions of bacteria. CHILDREN... festering masses of pus and poop. The exact ratio depends on age. Teach handwashing... especially those of the zit popping age. Bring lots of moist towelettes, pepto bismol and immodium.

norwalk ct
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5. Re: Avoiding Montezuma's Revenge

Eat something very hot every day to kill the bugs of yesterday,so says the doc.

new york
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for Isla Mujeres
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6. Re: Avoiding Montezuma's Revenge

All good advice. I too eat yogurt (check label for live culture; all others are just useless calories of sugar) daily, wash my hands and use cleansing gel before I eat, and drink moderately.

Alcohol really does not help. In fact, it's just the opposite: it supresses the immune system which leaves us more open to infectious diseases. On vacation it's easy to over do it and drink much more than we would at home so it's nor surprising that we get "tourista" while away.

FLORIDA1
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7. Re: Avoiding Montezuma's Revenge

I take one pepto-bismal per day as a preventative measure and it really seems to work.

Tulum, Mexico
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8. Re: Avoiding Montezuma's Revenge

My doctor told me not to take Pepto as a preventative. Fine if there is a problem but not as a preventative. Heavy drinking and poorly maintained buffet food cause more problems than anything else. Since water is purified in all of the touristy locations and even the locals drink bottled water, then the water issue has been mostly a non-issue. Just remember moderation in drinking will help you stay healthy. Just remember that cold buffet food should be cold and hot buffet food should be hot and that will help your tummy as well. As for tap water...don't drink it or brush your teeth with it. Just not worth the risk and bottled water is soooo accessible.

Tulum, Mexico
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9. Re: Avoiding Montezuma's Revenge

I meant to second the comment about eating hot sauce. Habanero is the chile of choice in the area and is really hot. I was traveling all over the Yucatan Peninsula for three week's time and my friend told me...Eat a little bit of hot sauce every day. NOTHING can live in that. lol I agree. That is also why a lot of locals have gotten used to putting lime juice on a lot of their foods. It also helps to kill bacteria.

Calgary
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for Akumal, Riviera Maya, Cancun
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10. Re: Avoiding Montezuma's Revenge

Here's what I do and it seems to work for me:

1. start taking acidophilus a few WEEKS before vacation and continue taking them whilst on holiday (live culture yoghurt is good but you have to eat quite a lot of it to get the same punch that you do from an acidophilus supplement);

2 be diligent (not necessarily neurotic!) about hand washing;

3. on the plane, I wipe over any surfaces I'm going to be touching with disinfecting wipes. (Gross but true story: I once saw a gal spill some wine on the drop-down table thingy. She proceeded to wipe it up with a kleenex (so far so good), she then LICKED the kleenex and gave the table another wipe. I'm a long way from a germaphobe but even I was pretty horrified by that!!!);

4. avoid excessive sun exposure (some sun and heat stroke symptoms are very similar to traveller's diarrhea);

4. avoid excessive food consumption - especially anything very spicy or foods my system simply isn't used to;

5. avoid too much fruit or having many fruity drinks, especially those containing coconut milk (a natural laxative);

6. bring Pepto and/or Immodium just in case but do NOT use as a preventative. My doctor explained that diarrhea is simply your body's way of expelling the offending bacteria. Pepto, Immodium and similar OTC drugs simply plug up this process. If you've got to get on a plane, then obviously, you have to do something but otherwise it's best to let nature run its course. Of course, if you're really ill or have severe diarrhea that lasts more than a couple of days, you should be seeking professional medical help. Which leads me to....

7. NEVER leave home without appropriate medical insurance, just in case.

HTH and best wishes for a safe and healthy vacation.

Edited: 02 August 2010, 15:08