While most of us will experience Pharaoh’s Revenge some time during our stay in Egypt, there is plenty you can do to avoid frequent bouts of these unpleasant experiences. Routines, such as hand washing, refrigeration, using safe water, dishwashing, and eating food immediately after it is prepared, help protect us from these illnesses. Our immune system also works hard to protect us, not only from harmful organisms in food and water, but also from those in the environment. We can help our body’s defenses by trying to decrease the amount of bugs we are exposed to by taking these precautions:
Wash your hands – all the time!
Drink only safe water.
Take special care with fresh produce.
Handle meat & eggs separately to fresh produce.
Train your house-help and monitor their practices.
Preventing Tummy Trouble
Along with the warmer, summer days comes an increase in food and water borne illnesses. While most of us will experience Pharaoh’s Revenge some time during our stay in Egypt, there is plenty you can do to avoid frequent bouts of these unpleasant experiences.
Food and water borne illnesses increase in warm weather because microbes, always present in the environment around us, grow faster at warm temperatures. Organisms that cause food and water borne illness grow particularly well between 90-110F (32-43C). Given the right circumstances, harmful bugs can quickly multiply on food and in water. When this happens, someone consuming the impacted item can get sick.
Fortunately routines, such as hand washing, refrigeration, using safe water, dishwashing, and eating food immediately after it is prepared, help protect us from these illnesses. Our immune system also works hard to protect us, not only from harmful organisms in food and water, but also from those in the environment. We can help our body’s defenses by trying to decrease the amount of bugs we are exposed to by taking these precautions.
Wash your hands – all the time!
- This is the single best way to avoid a range of infections, including tummy bugs. Use soap and water or, if the hands are not visibly dirty, waterless hand wash containing alcohol. Friction removes germs: Rub hands for at least as long as it takes to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Don’t forget, palms, thumbs and between fingers!
- Wash your hands before preparing food and after going to the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets.
Drink only safe water.
- Use bottled water or get a Reverse Osmosis (RO) filter with UV, available locally for around 5000LE. As water is forced through a filter membrane, microbes are trapped and killed by UV rays. Of the many methods of purifying water these two options are viable for long term use.
- Be aware of ice and freshly squeezed juices in restaurants and stalls. Carbonated beverages and those prepared by boiling water for at least one minute are safe options.
- Alcohol does not adequately kill all the bad-guys in ice or water.Freezing does not kill all the bugs either.
- For fresh produce the rule “Cook it, peel it, or don’t eat it” is the surest way to avoid infection. Germs are removed with the peel or killed by heat during cooking (according to the CDC, boiling for one-minute is adequate).
- All produce, even that which will be peeled and/or cooked, should be cleaned to remove dirt and chemicals. Do not use soap or detergent as these are not approved for use on foods.
- Always choose produce with no bruises or breaks in the skin.
- Treating produce as described in the box will reduce the risk associated with eating raw produce and salads. However, leafy vegetables and berries are always risky. They are highly susceptible to contamination and difficult to adequately clean. Fleshy vegetables (such as tomatoes and peppers) are also susceptible to contamination but easier to clean. Roots, bulbs and produce with an intact, protective skin are safer.
- Intestinal parasites have been found in large veins of lettuce leaves. If you choose to eat leafy vegetables, tear out the veins after cleaning and drying.
Meat & Eggs
- Do not let raw meat, meat juice, or eggs cross contaminate other food. Wash cooking utensils, chopping boards, and hands that have touched raw meat and eggs with warm water and soap immediately.
- Cook meat, poultry, fish and eggs completely.
- One hour is the limit for food to be at room temperature when it’s hotter than 90F/32C, two hours when it’s cooler. For this reason, approach buffets, food stalls, and condiments on restaurant tables with extreme caution.
Train your house-help to always wash hands and follow these protocols. Check regularly that they are actually being followed.
Instructions for Treating Fresh Produce
1. Wash thoroughly with clean water and scrub with a brush if the skin is robust.
2. Fill the sink with a gallon (4 L) of water and add 1 tbsp of house-hold bleach.
3. Soak produce for 10-15 minutes.
4. Drain and allow to air dry (chlorine will evaporate) or rinse with drinking water (so as not to re-contaminate).
Note: The taste, especially of thin skinned vegetables, may be slightly affected.
Bleach is the most effective method of killing of germs. Vinegar, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, baking powder and other concoctions are not effective in eliminating all the bugs that cause tummy trouble.
- Probiotics are friendly bacteria (and sometimes yeasts) that are similar to beneficial microorganisms normally found in the human gut. Some studies indicate that certain probiotics may offer protection against traveler’s diarrhea. If you want to explore this option do some careful research and get advice from your health care provider.