Traveler's Diarrhea, which is often referred to as "Montezuma's Revenge" after the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II, is one of the most common illnesses suffered by travelers. It is usually caused by bacteria found in contaminated water and food, and may be due to improper food handling and storage, as well as poor sewage disposal. There are some steps you can take to prevent being struck by this illness while traveling.
- Don't drink water from the tap. You can buy bottled purified water to drink, it's widely available and inexpensive, but hopefully where you're staying you can refill your water bottle with purified water from a larger jug instead of constantly buying disposable plastic bottles. Don't forget while you're brushing your teeth and also remember to keep your mouth closed while you shower!
- If you choose to eat from street vendors and in markets, look for stalls that are crowded: a high turnover means that the food is fresh, and the locals generally know the best spots. If you have a particularly sensitive stomach, you might prefer to eat in establishments that cater to tourists and avoid eating food from street vendors, but you'll be missing out on some great food experiences.
- In most restaurants in the larger cities and popular tourist destinations in Mexico, raw vegetables will be properly cleaned. If you're traveling in rural areas and off the beaten path, it may be wise to skip the salad and opt for cooked vegetables instead.
- If you want to be on the safe side, stick to fruits that can be peeled, and preferably peel them yourself. Or you can buy fruit in the market and clean it yourself (instructions in next section).
- Make sure any meat you eat is well-cooked.
- Wash your hands before you eat, or if this is not feasible, use a hand sanitizer.
- How strictly you wish to adhere to these suggestions may depend on your overall health, the length of your trip and your sense of adventure - you may find it hard to pass by Mexican street food altogether!
- Fruits and vegetables purchased in the market can be disinfected with a product called Microdyn - just add a few drops to some water and soak your produce for a few minutes before eating. Microdyn can be found in grocery stores in Mexico.
- A case of traveler's diarrhea is often accompanied by stomach cramps and nausea. Symptoms may last for a day or up to a week. Mild cases can be treated with an over-the-counter medication, such as Pepto Bismol, or Imodium. For severe cases, antibiotics may be necessary.