Safety Tips for Your Next All-Inclusive Vacation

It was probably the funniest storyline in last year’s Sex and the City movie when uptight Charlotte, after spending an entire week in Mexico eating only pudding cups from home and drinking bottled water, let her guard down in the shower and accidentally took a big ‘ol gulp of the local water. Needless to say she spent the rest of the holiday dealing with a mean case of Traveler’s Diarrhea, much to her girlfriends’ amusement. Dr. Aw, a Toronto-based travel doctor, says there’s definitely a lesson to be learned from Charlotte’s crappy experience. So before soaking up the sun at an all-inclusive this winter, you definitely need to soak up this valuable information.

Dr. Aw says 98% of Canadians who travel to Mexico or the Caribbean make some sort of mistake when it comes to the food or water within their first three days of vacation. And it could land them with a dangerous food or water-bourne illness like Hep A, Traveler’s Diarrhea or Typhoid Fever. “They drink from the tap, brush their teeth from the tap, eat poorly cooked food, undercooked meat, raw fish, eat salads from poorly prepared water, eat from street vendors, go for milk that’s been sitting out for a while,” he says.

Although it’s sometimes hard to grasp how to put one foot in front of the other after six margaritas, there are some key things you should try your best to remember. When it comes to food on the resort, Dr. Aw suggests grabbing fruit that you have to peel yourself from the breakfast buffet, because it could otherwise be contaminated by surrounding water. Sticking to foods that are piping hot is also a safer bet and when it comes to satellite food stations, beware of condiments that may have been sitting out for long periods under heat lamps. Avoid street vendors at all costs. “When you go off the resort, you’re in the land of the unknown,” he says.

As far as drinks are concerned, bottled water is a must, even when it comes to brushing your teeth. If you’re concerned about the ice, ask a third party tour operator (they usually run the orientaion meeting) where the water for the resort is treated. Mix drinks should be okay since the alcohol detoxifies everything and wine and beer are also safe, says Dr. Aw. (Insert collective sigh of relief here.)

Here’s a breakdown of the potential illnesses and the vaccinations that will help protect you.

Hep A: There’s a 20 day incubation period and patients will often experience fever, weight loss, jaundice among other things. Over the age of 49, the mortality rate is 2.7%. The vaccine is Vivaxim and is a combined shot for Hep A and Typhoid Fever. You can get the single dose shot the day you leave if necessary. You should get the booster in another six months which will protect you from Hep A for 20 years. The Typhoid Fever component lasts for three years.

Traveler’s Diarrhea: You’ll notice the symptoms right away and could risk spending your entire vacation on the toilet. Vaccine for this is Dukoral and is taken in drink form, two doses a week apart, at least two weeks before you go. It protects against E. coli and is safe for children two and older as well as breastfeeding moms. The vaccine is good for three months and if you travel again within five years, you only need a single dose. If you’ve run out of time for your this vaccine, Dr. Aw suggests bringing along some Imodium and electrolyte-rich drinks just in case!

Typhoid Fever: This is a lower-risk illness in the Caribbean and is mainly seen in rural areas. There’s an even longer incubation period for Typhoid Fever and patients experience fever, abdominal pain and constipation. The Vivaxim vaccine is for both Hep A and Typhoid Fever.

Author by Jackie Burns