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Off topic: Help avoiding Montezuma's Revenge in Mexico???
Thread poster: Marcelo Silveyra

Marcelo Silveyra
United States
Local time: 08:39
Member (2007)
German to English
+ ...
Dec 18, 2007

Hi everyone,

Although I don't particularly like the term "Montezuma's Revenge" because I'm not very fond of toilet humor, I'm sure this was a much easier way of getting to the subject than beating around the bush with more subtle allusions. But anyway, back to the matter at hand...

In a few days, I will be traveling with my wife to Mexico and spending about 20 days or so there; about 13 with my family in Monterrey and the rest in Tabasco and Chiapas. The thing is, she's Finnish, and she hasn't been to Mexico yet, so we're kind of dreading the possibility of her getting sick over there, which would ruin most of the trip (especially the Tabasco/Chiapas section, and man oh man that would suck!).

Now, I'm pretty much immune to anything there (i.e. I'll eat where most of my friends won't dare and live to tell the tale), so that makes it even worse, because I'm sure that some of my favorite places are death traps for foreigners who aren't used to the water (and I'm of course clueless as to what to do to avoid getting sick, since I never do). So I was wondering two things:

1) Any tips on how to help my wife avoid having her stomach ruined for a week?

2) If, despite all possible precautions, she does get sick, what would you recommend doing?

Thanks to anyone who can help out!


Amy Williams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:39
Italian to English
+ ...
the usual Dec 18, 2007

Stick to bottled water and drink lots of it. Stay off ice in drinks and foods that have a tendency to harbour evils, like ice cream.

I'd take some Immodium (for diarrhoea). And maybe something for the opposite problem...!

If she does get ill: make sure you have rehydration sachets like Dioralyte. Keep her hydrated. Water, water. Hugely important.

I'm sure you knew this already, but there we go.
Have a super time!

[Edited at 2007-12-18 14:57]


Margreet Logmans (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:39
English to Dutch
+ ...
Just a few tips, I'm sure there's lots more Dec 18, 2007

Hi Marcelo,

sounds like a wonderful trip!

A few tips for your wife - this is what I've learned while travelling with young children in area's that weren't - mmmm - terribly suitable. I don't know what kind of weather you have in that region, but I assume it's pretty warm.

- always have a bottle of bottled water from the shop with you, or - if need be - boiled and filtered (coffee paper) water . That way, you'll always have a safe drink. In case of really bad circumstances, use it to brush your teeth as well.

- don't swallow tapwater when brushing your teeth.

- don't eat salad or lettuce you have not prepared yourself. If the veggies are washed with tapwater, you're at risk.

- be careful with meat too; don't eat it if it's not thoroughly heated (including left-overs from previous days).

- if you're sick anyway, try activated charcoal (it's called differently in my language, don't know the right term, but this is the stuff: )

Hope you'll enjoy your time with your family!

P.S. Agree to everything Amy said, I was still typing when she postedicon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2007-12-18 14:55]


Sian Herrera-Delgado
Local time: 16:39
Spanish to English
+ ...
Happens to me every time : ) but I still love Mexico! Dec 18, 2007

Hi Marcelo,

My husband is from Mexico City, and every time I go there I always end up with Montezuma's revenge no matter how careful I think I am being! I think us Europeans are too sensitive! Obviously, your wife should avoid drinking anything other than bottled water, e.g something like evian to be on the double safe side, and even brushing her teeth using bottled water. If you are staying at your family's house and they have fruit or salad for dinner, these should also be washed with bottled water (sounds a bit ott but it does help!) and all fruit and veg peeled. No ice, ice-lollies or ice-cream and beware that drinks like coke in places like burger king may well be made (diluted) using local water. I also take some anti-bacterial gel for my hands. Obviously, no matter how yummy the tacos are, she should avoid those from the street! Hehe I sound really OCD now, but like you say, it tends to ruin plans when you get ill! The last time I went and got ill the doctor said that it wasn't what I had eaten or anything, but due to the pollution and air-borne germs, so hmm not much you can do about that! Although, I have never been to Monterrey, but I imagine it would be less polluted than Mexico city, we went on to Puebla and Cholula and the difference was very notable air wise! The thing I find great about Mexico when you are ill is that you can go to a doctor at whatever time of day, whatever day of the week! (here in the UK, that isn't really the case!) My husband always takes me to a doctor that is a stomach specialist and after some antibiotics, I tend to be fine: just catch it soon enough (i.e as soon as you realise immodium is not working! - sorry to be so blunt, but this is always my way of knowing a doc is required!) and within a day/two of taking the antibiotics hopefully your wife will be fine. Oh, and no ceviche! and eggs can be a bit dodgy too!
Have a great trip!

[Edited at 2007-12-18 15:08]


Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:39
German to English
+ ...
All of the above, plus... Dec 18, 2007

The first time we went to Mexico (with a 2-yr. old), no one got sick at all. However, we recently returned from a trip to Mexico where I contracted salmonella. Husband and 2 small kids did not get sick - to some extent it's the luck of the draw.

Definitely do all of the above. Use bottled water to brush your teeth as an extra precaution. I would add that we take a Pepto Bismol tablet every day as a preventive measure, but your mileage might vary.

We did eat market food, but only very hot foods (boiled corn, freshly fried tacos) and avoided any vegetables or mayo on them. We had eaten peeled fruit at the market before I got sick, but stopped after, as the doctor said that might have been problematic. I would actually avoid tortas, too - they have fresh vegetables on them (that is another option for what might have made me sick). When we ate fresh fruit and vegetables at our friend's house, she disinfected everything first, but she does that as a rule anyway.

Otherwise if your wife does get sick, monitor her condition. In my case I realized that it was more serious when I got a fever. The doctor was able to come to the house where we were staying - have cash on hand to pay for a visit at all times (in my case it was 700 pesos for the visit and 300 pesos or so for the Pedialyte and medications). Luckily, the doctors are very familiar with this type of thing and the pharmacies are well stocked with the necessary antibiotics. Of course, I got sick in Mexico City - don't know about smaller towns.

After all that, I would return to Mexico in a heartbeat. It was a wonderful place to visit, and the people were so warm and friendly to us. Have a great time!

[Edited at 2007-12-18 15:36]

[Edited at 2007-12-18 15:37]


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:39
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Sauces Dec 18, 2007

I've never been to Mexico (or the Americas), but I remember having read a research (was it in Scientific American or New Scientist), that proved that those sauces they have on restaurant tables (ketchup, salsa or what they call it) ar the most frequent source of infections. These sauces stand all day long in the heat and germs grow to fantastic populations in it.
Stay well!


Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:39
German to English
+ ...
Thought of a couple more things Dec 18, 2007

Heinrich's advice is good - I have heard the same thing. We also tried to stick to very well frequented restaurants and market stalls - if there is a line for the food, it's probably good and moves through the restaurant quickly.

Another piece of advice I recall receiving when we visited the Yucatan was to put chilies and lime on everything. It's supposed to help kill some of the bad germs. Who knows? It tastes good, anyway!


patyjs  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:39
Spanish to English
+ ...
The change alone will do it! Dec 18, 2007

For people who are really sensitive it probably doesn't matter where they go, a simple change in the harmless bacteria we ingest everyday will get them doing the Aztec Two-step.

Here in Mexico things have changed radically in the twenty years I've been here. If you stick to the main towns and cities you won't have any problems with the water in drinks or ice. Everybody uses bottled water, even the little guy who sells bolis and paletas (ice pops and ice lollipops) from his hand-cart. Tourism is important here and the last thing anyone wants is for our beloved tourists to get sick. Cooked food from the street is safer than fruit, though, simply because it's cooked. Fresh fruit sold on the street is peeled and cut up right there and so may be a bit dodgy.

If you do get sick, Immodium might give immediate relief but I wouldn't take it more than once or twice. I'm told it only treats the sypmtoms and not the cause and so you very quickly end up with the opposite problem. Messing around an already delicate body part like that can't be good. Pharmacies sell anitbiotic medicines OTC, for better or worse, and there's always a pharmacist on hand to help.

I ditto everything said about bottled water...take it with you everywhere you go off the beaten track and when you're visiting ruins etc.

But one thing you must not forget, particularly if you're visiting Tabasco and Chiapas, is BUG REPELLENT! We might be in the winter months but the mosquitos don't always know that. It's all the same to them. I have a cast-iron stomach, like Marcelo, so I can eat just about anything, but it took two years for my body to get accustomed to the mosquitos. Two years of interminable itching, unsightly welts and wrapping wet towels round my legs at night in an attempt to get some sleep.

Thankfully, those days are gone and now I just get the little red, slightly itchy spots that everyone else gets. Small price for living in paradise.

Have a great vacation...



GoodWords  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:39
Spanish to English
+ ...
Remedies Dec 18, 2007

Others have already given a good summary of foods to avoid. In summary:
  • ice
  • unbottled drinks, tap water
  • uncooked vegetables; salad, salsas
  • fruit already cut and peeled
  • seafood cocktail

If any of your family get sick, I recommend they drink chamomile tea (manzanilla) (along with whatever medication they may be taking). This tea has a gentle disinfectant or antibacterial effect. Even if they can't keep it down, it helps to cleanse the stomach. The medication Treda is often recommended as an over-the-counter remedy. It contains neomycin, kaolin and pectin.


nruddy  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:39
German to English
Good bacteria Dec 18, 2007

I've lived in Mexico for the past five years and have actually tended to get sick from food in restaurants rather than from food bought on the street, though there I only buy food that is cooked/fried, never peeled fruit, "nieve" or "raspados". Avoid the Italiannis chain of Italian restaurants...apart from myself, I know loads of people who got sick eating there.

The first couple of times I travelled to Latin America, I took "good bacteria" for the last five days before my trip and they really helped to build up my system and prevent me from getting sick - at least early on. Back then I was living in Germany and bought them in a chemist over the counter, so I don't remember the name of the product. I'd definitely recommend your wife taking them those capsules before she leaves.

As regards mosquitos in low-lying areas, you might want to get Bayron/Raid tabs and a socket that you can plug into the wall if you have a mosquito in your room. They are very effective.

Good luck with the trip!


Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:39
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Oh my! Dec 18, 2007

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

I've never been to Mexico (or the Americas), but I remember having read a research (was it in Scientific American or New Scientist), that proved that those sauces they have on restaurant tables (ketchup, salsa or what they call it) ar the most frequent source of infections. These sauces stand all day long in the heat and germs grow to fantastic populations in it.
Stay well!

Heinrich, Heinrich...Heinrich.....

In terms of baseball, that's the first base! You'll have to taste those "marvelous" donuts exposed at streets the whole day to millions of gas particles. MMMMmmmm! Wanna try?

Well, if your Finnish wife wants to be healthy:
-drink bottle water
-don't eat seafood in southern Mexico, may be you can try Marcelo as you are Mexico and should have a plenty rich stomach fauna but she must not.
-don't eat chilis, and yes, even if people say it's not spicy it's because IT'S REALLY spicy.
-don't eat vegetable exposed to CO2 from cars or washed with low quality water.

Briefly, she must eat only what she could find in her motherland.icon_smile.gif And if she wants to try something, well, that will be her choice.


ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:39
English to French
+ ...
About bottled water Dec 18, 2007

I am sure it sounds stupid, but here it goes:

With bottled water, you need to make sure that the bottle is new and has never been opened. In many countries visited by lots of tourists, people sell bottles of water that have been opened, drank from and refilled again. Make sure the bottle is sealed.

As for food, as long as your wife sticks with food that was thoroughly cooked (no medium rare steaks), she should have no problem. If you go swimming, try to go to the cleanest places - if you see lots of garbage around the beach, don't get near the water, and of course, near the garbage.

I hope you and your family will have a nice, healthy and fun trip.


Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:39
French to English
Drink nothing but cerveza Dec 18, 2007

That's what I always do when in Mexico ... never got sick that wayicon_wink.gif

No, seriously - I was sick when I first arrived in France years ago, the water here is fine, but the body just needs to get used to the different micro-organisms I suppose.

It's just one of the risks of international travel in general, not only in Mexico.

All the above advice is very good too.


Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:39
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I also belong to the cast-iron tummy variety, as do my kids Dec 18, 2007

but I also always travel with acidophilous pills for my Argentinian husband who was born with a North American stomachicon_smile.gif. You can get them at any pharmacy or health food store and though they say to refrigerate, they won't go bad- just lose potency. It's the good bacteria we get in yoghurt, so even if you get a touch of upset stomach it offsets a lot of the nastiness...


CMJ_Trans (X)
Local time: 17:39
French to English
+ ...
more advice.... Dec 18, 2007

First, I must say that I agree with all the advice about water (always in bottles, even for cleaning your teeth, check the seals of the bottles....) and about fruit & veg (especially avoid things like raw tomatoes - 90% water - and water melon - full of potentially stomach-upsetting things).

The one point I would add is that if Montezuma strikes, it is essential to avoid dehydration and one thing that doctors recommend in such cases is to drink Coca Cola. Sorry about the advertising, which I will counter by saying that the stuff disgusts me and you will never find any in my house. We do however use it as medicine if, on one of the our far-flung trips, we fall prey to a stomach bug. Of course, you must make sure that it is genuine thing and that, if in a bottle, the seal is intact. One more point, it should be drunk tepid (NOT ice-cold) and you should stir it to eliminate a maximum of bubbles (i.e. it should also be "flat") Pretty yukky but it does work.....

Have a good trip and don't worry unnecessarily.

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