Food Poisoning – Prevention & Remedies
Be Smart about What You Eat
Food Poisoning is serious business, and when you’re down for the count you will know it.
Mild cases probably do not require medical attention, and there’s very little a doctor can do. For adults over 60, for babies and small children, and for those who are pregnant or suffering from chronic illness or a weak immune system, you may want to call for a doctor referral.
But most important of all is to be smart and careful about what you’re eating.
Preventing Food Poisoning
Many people will tell you that they’ve had no problem coming from other countries and visiting Mexico for short times. But almost anyone from North America, Europe, or Asia will tell you that eventually, after staying sometime, they got some kind of food poisoning.
While tap water in Mexico City is almost entirely potable, the methods for delivering it are not always entirely sanitary. Most issues with water sources in Mexico City occur when clean water pipes are cracked, and laid to close to waste water pipes. Drink bottled water. Everyone else does.
Among the most common irritants are:
- “Young” dried cheeses, stored at room temperature. Cotija most commonly, and queso fresco or queso blanco are the youngest and for people from other countries, most “alien” of cheeses – meaning that they may contain micro-organisms that consumers from other countries are not prepared for.
- Sour creams and some heavy creams. As such, the Mexican kitchen doesn’t include anything like the fakey chemical sour creams available in the USA. Sour creams sometimes served on enchiladas suizas will, to non-Mexican noses, actually smell distinctly unappetizing.
- Crema – from squirt bottles, usually drizzled, over fried foods, but served seemingly innocuous, over many foods. Avoid it. “Sin crema, por favor.“
- Salsas – Salsas that sit out, un-refrigerated, are far and away the most common cause of food poisoning across all the people of Mexico City. So try to eat in places serving lots and lots of salsa, rather than those where empty tables are just storing salsas.
- Salads and fruit. Lots of international visitors swear that this is the source of all their ailments: the tap water used to wash fruits and vegetables. Use the lime that comes with your salad as it will actually kill some bacteria. Peeled fruits are generally preferable to those handled a lot, or those with edible skins.
- Badly prepared meats – or meats that appear to have been left out or simply forgotten on some side table for too long.
- Deep fried tacos – tacos dorados, quesadillas, and flautas cooked hours in advance. Cooking oil used for frying can simply permit bacteria to reproduce. This sometimes happens with tacos dorados prepared in the morning for a big lunch special that starts at 2 PM. If you’re going to eat deep fried anything, be sure that you are able to watch it being fried.
Sticking to the above pointers, you should avoid most types of stomach upset.
The most dangerous thing about food poisoning is likely to be dehydration. This can be indicated by the following:
- Extreme thirst and dry mouth
- Insufficient urination and / or dark, concentrated urine
- Rapid heartbeat or low blood pressure
- Weakness, dizziness, and lightheadedness, especially when standing up
- Pronounced confusion and disorientation
You want to drink plenty of fluids and water especially to address the above.
What to do if you feel sick
Rarely do cases of mild food poisoning require medical attention. If you do feel sick, usually in the lower abdomen, then do the following.
1. Drink lots of water.
Diarrhea and vomiting will deplete water in your body and dehydration can be the most dangerous part of any intoxication. Clear soda, clear broth, and bottled water are the best.
2. Electrolyte-fortified liquids.
Now widely available in stores like Oxxo, you can drink Pedialyte, or Electrolit or similar beverages. Coconut water and Gatorade offer similar benefits.
3. Go easy on the solid foods, at least at first.
Bland, non-greasy and low-fiber foods like rice, toast, bananas, and apples eaten in small amounts should start you out ok. If not, stick with liquid, then up the ante with more salts, soup, and crackers, to get your electrolytes.
4. Avoid dairy, greasy or fried foods, and high-fiber foods or anything that upsets your stomach.
5. Don’t take diarrhea medicines.
You’re working against your body’s natural defenses in expelling toxins or infectious agents.
6. Seek medical attention if it’s necessary – after TWO DAYS.
Call for medical attention if you experience these symptoms:
- Blood in vomit or stool
- Blurred vision
- Diarrhea that lasts more than three days
- Extreme abdominal pain or cramps
- Fever higher than 101.5 F / 38.62 C
- Continual vomiting
- Tingling in the arms
- Severe muscular weakness
Locatel will refer you to a doctor. Still-frequent vomiting, blood in the vomit or stool, severe diarrhea that’s persisted after two days, severe cramping, and any symptoms of dehydration – including dizziness, dry mouth, and lightheadedness do mean that you need to seek medical attention.
If you are too sick to fly, you may want to contact your airline too. But rest assured, even the worst cases of food poisoning can usually be cleared up in a few days.