THE HAGUE: I was struck down with gastroenteritis last week, not that surprising in Egypt you may think, except I wasn’t scoffing down fuul and tameya in Embaba, but contemporary delights in sanitized Europe.
Europe may be considered low risk for diarrhea, but the dreadful bug, strikes travelers anytime, anywhere.
It is estimated that about 18 million adults from around the world travel for business or pleasure each year and a remarkable 39 percent spend more time than normal in the bathroom or bent over with excruciating cramps and violent vomiting.
Personally, I have been hit with traveler’s diarrhea (TD) in Argentina (seven days), Syria (three days), Egypt (five days), Australia (two days), Turkey (three days) and now The Netherlands (one day).
I’ve survived India, Indonesia, Peru and Tanzania and what I have learned is listed below in my guide.
Avoidance tactics are many and visitors always turn up with this obsession of drinking bottled water and washing your lettuce.
Wash your lettuce in whisky if it is that important, but remember with the lousy air quality on international flights, it is more than likely that you will arrive at your destination with some type of bug, quietly incubating in your gut or throat.
One always spends the highest percentage of money at the start of a holiday as you sample all and sundry on offer to get a feel for the new culture.
It is most important during the first few days of your holiday to take it easy.
It is when your body is most venerable from the flight, and as you graze through the market food stalls, enjoy nights out dining on rich cuisine.
No travel advisory can suggest to you what to eat, thus they say, “drink bottled water and eat in clean restaurants, as if you are likely to quench your thirst from a road side puddle and a café that resembles an upside down dog’s breakfast.
What they should be saying, is drink very little whisky before each meal to kill off the germs in your gut, eat small meals and snack on your duty free chocolate.
Get to bed early, sleep well and recover from your flight. You’re not as young as you use to be.
Before you start to venture into the exotic and exciting culture of your destination, cut your finger nails. Pay close attention to the cleanliness of your hands and if you are really off the beaten track, keep a bottle of antibacterial hand wash that can be used without water nearby.
Don’t forget that you can also wash your hands with a little whisky, which is standard procedure for all doctors in all black ‘n’ white cowboy films, disinfecting their hands with whisky before using a Bowie knife to extradite the bullet.
One is no longer allowed to travel with a hunting knife on international or domestic flights, believe it or not, but that is another story.
Meanwhile, don’t be caught with your pants down after 48 hours. That is about average for your ego to be caught unawares, chest puffed out, thinking you are bullet proof.
In military parlance, that is just the feint; a ploy to get you thinking you have avoided the worst, seen off the enemy, when all the viruses are doing is mustering at the back door.
My own theory on a lot of the gastroenteritis viruses lie with paper money.
You see, many rich nations either have notes with a plastic coating or circulate their cash regularly. In less privileged countries, the paper is more likely to absorb the environment and host creepy crawlers that are waiting to hand deliver the Luxor two step.
When you get struck down and you can’t move into a five-star hotel, barricade your room, let no one see your humiliated self and sip on flat sprite.
Green tea and Chinese noodle soup. There is no quick fix, only your mom, the couch and the tele can bring comfort.
Apart from the antibacterial hand wash, you should also pack super soft toilet paper, because that foreign stuff has the texture of sandpaper. A little bottle of talcum powder will also be handy and just thank your lucky stars that you only have TD and you have not started vomiting violently.