How to prevent the Bangkok Belly and what to do in case you get it
Travelling around the world can be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of your life, but different countries usually come with different foods and different hygiene standards, so that a food poisoning is one of the most common problems that travellers will usually face at least once in their life. In fact, being over-adventurous in countries like Thailand may actually be counterproductive and leave you in bed for days, making you lose all that time of sightseeing. The so-called “Bangkok Belly” includes symptoms like diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, but is usually not dangerous and disappears after a couple of days. With our tips, you should be able to have a safe trip to Thailand and enjoy your vacation without major complications.
What to avoid
Raw vegetables and unpeeled fruits
Unless you’re in a trusted restaurant and you’re absolutely sure that the vegetables have been carefully washed with filtered water, you should avoid eating anything uncooked, including salads. Cooked vegetables in boiled soups are to be preferred. Always peel your fruits as well or wash them with filtered water.
Street food is usually safe to eat, but be very selective and avoid anything that looks like it’s been sitting out in the sun all day. Skip anything too exotic like scorpions or weird animals (unless you want to stay in lockdown for the rest of your LIFE) and go for soups and freshly fried specialties. I would actually recommend going vegetarian for at least the first week, and then eating meat only in places that were recommended by friends who have already tried them.
Tap water and ice
Never drink tap water. If you want to avoid single-use plastic water bottles you can refill your own bottle at refill stations in most hotels and some restaurants, or along the streets. The majority of restaurants and bars in tourist areas use ice made from purified water and have it delivered daily, but if you’re not sure whether a place made their ice with tap or purified water, just skip it.
Local dishes with raw meat or fish
Some local dishes that you might want to avoid to save your vacation are Luu moo (a soup made of raw pig’s blood),Koi pla (a salad made of raw fish),Larb leuat neua (made from raw beef and uncooked blood),Larb dib (another raw-meat salad) and the heinous shark fin soup, a jelly-like dish that is the reason for the overfishing of sharks and the endangerment of some species. Bugs and scorpions are to be avoided as well unless you think another worldwide pandemic is worth a shot. Don’t eat the decorative garnishes on your plate either: they are often reused, going from plate to plate, and a fair number of people got sick after eating ornamental fruit and veggies. Just take a picture for Instagram and leave it on the plate.
How to treat a food poisoning
Although some symptoms can be easily managed with over-the-counter drugs and will disappear on their own after a few days, other symptoms may indicate more serious problems and will require professional treatment. If you have severe dehydration, persistent vomiting, blood in your stool or vomit, or a high fever, or if your symptoms last for more than a few days, seek medical help. Choose a private international hospital over a public one to avoid language barriers.
Drink bottled water
Since Thailand is a tropical country, you will lose more fluid throughout the day through sweating, so it’s important to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Fresh coconut juice is also excellent for replacing electrolytes. You can find bottled drinks at the many 7-Elevens.
Take probiotics before and during your trip
The overall stress from travelling and the changes in your diet may have an impact on your digestive system as well, so taking probiotics may be helpful, especially if you need to take antibiotics.
If you’re struggling with holding in water, go to the nearest pharmacy and pick up some Oral Rehydration packets to avoid dehydration.
Rest and eat plain food
Your body will use a lot of energy to dispose of whatever is making you sick, so get lots of sleep and rest. Once you feel better, you can start eating plain foods like oatmeal, toast, broth and boiled potatoes. After a few days you can start reintroducing things like hard-boiled eggs, cooked vegetables, and white meat, like chicken or turkey. Consume electrolyte drinks like Gatorade to keep your body hydrated.
Looking for an even more in-depth article about food poisoning while traveling? Check out Sundried Icicles.