May 22, 2000 -- Steven Peterson was spending his summer as an intern at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. It was his first trip abroad, and he'd had a wonderful time going to all the different restaurants and sampling the local cuisine in the capital of San Juan. He was on his way from there to Arecibo, traveling in a minivan filled with a dozen other passengers, when it suddenly struck: a gut-wrenching case of "Montezuma's revenge." "I had to have the driver stop by the side of the road. Luckily there was a little roadside café there," Peterson says. "But I remember being in a cold sweat by the time I dashed inside."
Most of us have been there at one time or another in our lives, and there is no sense of panic quite like it. Physicians estimate that 20% to 50% of all travelers experience a bout or two of gastrointestinal distress on their journeys. At highest risk are travelers to the developing countries of Africa, the Middle East, and Central America, but it can happen anywhere.
Here are some tips from the World Health Organization to keep you and your family safe while traveling -- whether you're eating in an expensive restaurant or stopping for a quick snack from a street vendor.
- Make sure your food has been thoroughly cooked and is still hot when it's served.
- Avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables except those that can be peeled, and then peel them yourself. Avoid fruits with damaged skin.
- Avoid dishes containing raw or undercooked eggs (such as mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, and mousses).
- Avoid unpasteurized milk, or boil it first.
- Avoid dairy products, including ice cream, that are made with unpasteurized milk.
- Boil water vigorously before drinking, if you are at all unsure of its safety.
- Avoid drinks with ice unless you can be sure that the ice was made from uncontaminated water.