Originally Printed in Surfing Magazine.)

If you haven’t taken the proper shots or precautions, surf trips to those far-off, Third and Fourth world countries can easily send you to the hospital, or worse. From mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria or dengue fever to global epidemics like the SARS virus, you need to be prepared and aware of everything that might declare war on your immune system. One of the steps in smart traveling is knowing what you can and can’t eat.

  • Generally, you’re subject to all kinds of things in your food and drink.

Bacteria, viruses, poisons and parasites. There is also a protein called “prion” that you get from contaminated meat or monkey brains. It can make you lose your mind, so stay away from monkey brains.

  • Other foods to avoid are salads.

Uncooked veggies, raw or undercooked meats and non-pasteurized milk products. Also, beware of buying things in tropical places that have obviously sat on the shelf for a while. Mayonnaise is a big one – one little crack in the seal and salmonella will be all over it. Even fresh fruit can get you if you don’t wash it with bottled water or peel it yourself.

  • Drinking tap water is the biggest cause,

of the standard “Montezuma’s Revenge“, “Delhi Belly” of my favorite, “Turkey Trots”. This is caused by the high bacteria count in water that’s not chlorinated, common for most Third World countries. There’s an easy solution to this: drink bottled or sparkling water only. Ask for bottled water “un-opened”. If there is no bottled water, boil it for at least one minute. Don’t use ice cubes you didn’t make yourself.

  • If you eat canned foods, be sure the cans aren’t swollen.

This happens if there’s a dent in the can and it sits on the shelf for a long time – common in those faraway places. If they are, it means the gas from the bacteria produced botulism. Botox is derived from this toxin which will make you stop breathing. Not fun.

  • One other thing,

Before you go anywhere, I recommend going to your doctor and getting a Cipro prescription and Zithromax (or generic) – known as a “Z” pack. Cipro battles the Monetzuma’s and Z pack helps with respiratory infections.

  • If you can’t remember any of this, just live by the motto: “Boil it, Peel it, Cook it, or Forget it!”

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