Can I possibly avoid getting sick in India?
February 11, 2007 11:02 PM   Subscribe

please elaborate about getting sick in india. really.

I am emetophobic. Which means i have vomit-phobia. I really do really...erfh...have to go to India in the fall for a wedding. I am, amazingly enough, a serious foodie/gastronaut and will be heartbroken if I have to survive on powerbars and bottled h2o. Which I'm still not convinced will keep me safe, more likely just make me feel/look like an a**hole. Which I'd really rather not do.

I have googled and mefied myself endlessly, and I still have some graphic questions only an emetophobe could ask. I really would like some graphic answers. Sorry.

All over the web, people say they "get sick" in India, but no one ever distinguishes between diarrhea and vomit. And I really need that. Reality for me is that if i'm pooping a river for weeks, no matter how bad I feel, I won't go crazy. I'll be grateful. If I throw'll be bad. I can't possibly state this emphatically enough.

So, please tell me "how" you were sick in India, and what made you sick, or how you didn't get sick, while the people around you did.

I have the unusually cast-iron stomach most emetophobes have. I have never had a stomach virus at the age of 31 (seriously knocking on wood and considering deleting that claim for fear of...norwalk's law?), and I've thrown up 4 times in my life. So I am a tough cookie about this, but the fear is mounting. This trip is seriously seven months away, and I'm already nearing panic attack mode. Over-hearing "wow, when I was in India, oof...never been that sick in my life...wanted to die" from, oh, most people i talk to, and some people online is really pushing me to the edge.

So, how do I not "get sick" and what, really, is "sick" in India.

Oh, and please, I know I know, I'm crazy and need to get a real problem. Dumbest- phobia- ever award anyone? Whatever, I knew someone growing up (A GUY!) phobic of Rhododendrons. Everyone is crazy in the end. Thanks in advance for any words of wisdom...

OH! And I'll be up north in the mountains in late September, and in Goa a couple weeks later.

Yes. I feel lucky.
posted by metasav to Travel & Transportation around India (36 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Well, according to this guy, "Delhi belly" involves vomiting.
posted by Methylviolet at 11:22 PM on February 11, 2007

I was fine for the first three weeks in India, until we got to Delhi and thought it time for a Western meal. We found a very clean, shiny, modern Western restaurant in Connaught Circle and I devoured the salad bar. A few hours later, I had the worst diarrhea I had ever had. I was sick for an entire week, right up until the day we left. I don't think there was any vomitting, but I don't remember it all that clearly. But it was definitely the salad that did me in, presumably something washed in dirty water. I had eaten loads of street food, home cooked Indian meals and restaurant food before that.

But the absolute worst case of food poisoning I have ever experienced came from bad pineapple slices from a Bangkok street vendor. I was projectile vomiting and had stuff coming out the other at the same time. Took me several days to get over that. I'm not sure what the lesson here is. Avoid all fruits and veg?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:25 PM on February 11, 2007

Well, I was in Bombay for about three weeks. Ate almost all my meals from street stalls and only had about two days of distress. Didn't vomit at all but, that being said, my diarrhea was so damn intense I don't see how there would have been much of anything to puke up.

I've spent a lot of time on the ground in Africa, and so I always keep Oral Rehydration Salts in my first aid kit. A steady flow of fluids and little food during that period restricted my affliction to about 48 hours.

So no, my case involved exactly zero vomit.

I wouldn't worry about it. Just get on that plane and enjoy India!!
posted by Mutant at 11:28 PM on February 11, 2007

Not sure about India, but in other places that I've been with "bugs" in the food/water, it tends to come out in the form of diarrhea rather than vomit.
posted by k8t at 11:36 PM on February 11, 2007

Consider asking your doctor to prescribe you some anti-nauseates. You probably wouldn't even have to go into your phobia with your doctor-- when I traveled to Southeast Asia recently, my doctor automatically forced on me prescriptions for antibiotics and anti-diarrheal medication. (You might be encouraged to hear that I neither filled nor needed either.)

Googling reveals that there are several classes of anti-nauseate drugs. I've taken meclizine (brand name: Antivert) and promethazine (Phenergan) and both were effective-- though they pretty much knocked me out. Even if you end up not taking them, it might comfort you to have them on the trip.

(I also have a stupid phobia that may prevent me from enjoying India, so I feel your pain.)
posted by chickletworks at 11:37 PM on February 11, 2007

but no one ever distinguishes between diarrhea and vomit.

A bacterial infection will give you traveler's diarrhea, without vommiting.

A viral infection will give you diarrhea along with intractable vomitting (viral gastroenteritis).

Travellers to India usually get an antibiotic like Cipro to deal with bacterial infections, but nothing to help with the vomitting. (If you are vommiting, you have a viral infection, and an antibiotic won't help you.)

I would recommend talking with a travel nurse and getting a prescription for Compazine filled before you go. This won't help you with the infection, but will help with the vommiting.

We were just in India. We ate everything and one of us got sick with a viral thing. Having Compazine *really* helped with the vomitting, and will be really useful if you have to get in a car or something while sick. I wish we had it on hand, but it is available from Indian pharmacies without a precription under the name Prochlorperazine.

All that said, I think most travellers get bacterial infections, and have travelers diarrhea with no vomitting.

what made you sick, or how you didn't get sick

I believe the biggest cause for bacterial infections is drinking unfiltered water. This can include eating chutneys, drinking fruit juice, and even eating on plates that are still wet from being washed. We drank only filtered or bottled water, avoided chutneys, and it worked. I drank the fruit juices though. We drank water from this kind of water filter, and were fine.

I believe the biggest cause for foodborne viral infections is eating food that has been prepared by someone with unwashed hands, usually by someone who is carrying the virus and who didn't wash their hands after using the bathroom. I have no idea how to avoid this; and one of us got hit with a viral infection. Much diarrhea and vomitting followed, but the vomitting was controlled as soon as we got the Compazine.

Here is a self link with some more advice. I am not a doctor.
posted by rajbot at 11:43 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sick means vomiting and diarrhea. If you eat food not prepared within your sight and up to strict safety standards, you will probably get sick. If you drink untreated water you will also likely get sick.

It is certainly possible to travel without getting sick, but few pull it off because they let their guard down. I suspect that you, being totally scared of it, could do it. The key is to trust NOBODY. When in a foreign country we have a tendency to assume that people who look western are cleanly. Big mistake, I've had the same experience as Kraftmatic where I got sick from a western restaurant after weeks of careful avoidances.

So: bring some virus rated filter bottles for camping, you may not have access to trustworthy bottled water. Do not drink any water from a bottle that you did not open, and check the seal! It is very common for even 'trusty' people to try to slip you tap water because they think you are being 'silly'.
Do not eat anything raw that does not have a peel (that you don't eat!). Cook your food to hell and gone. Don't drink milk in any form (no latte's at the italian restaurant like I did!) Keep your mouth SHUT when showering!

Again, trust NO ONE. As you can see by the posts above many people accept sickness as acceptable, and moreso when its not them!
posted by Osmanthus at 11:50 PM on February 11, 2007

For avoiding vomiting I would focus most heavily on avoiding undercooked/raw foods, and avoiding foods that might be subject to cross contamination (i.e. rice is something that's spooned from the pot onto the plate, but sandwiches and fruits might be sitting on a preparation surface of some kind where raw meat was). I'd also avoid fruits and vegetables that I did not personally wash. Of course all this requires some foresight into how the food is prepared, and some luck that the kitchen follows sanitary standards.

I spent three years combined in Kenya and in the Philippines during the 1970s through the 1990s and only had one minor problem once, which did not involve vomiting. Frankly I've had worse luck eating fast food here in the U.S.

Also if you're going to avoid the water, avoid the ice. It's amazing how often I seen travellers drinking sodas to avoid the water, and what's in that glass? Ice cubes.
posted by rolypolyman at 12:09 AM on February 12, 2007

I notice by your bio that you are probably female. As I am not female I can only go on hearsay, but from what I hear, you should stay away from public restrooms. One friend of mine described a public restroom in Bombay as a room with shit on the floor, no holes, no drains..
posted by Osmanthus at 12:23 AM on February 12, 2007

I spent 5 months in India and Nepal 3 years ago. About half-way through my travels I was infected with giardia.

After a few days with really bad diarrhea (no vomiting), I bought some medicine (can't remember what it was called) over the counter at a pharmacy and that was me right as rain again. I had no more problems for the rest of my travels.

I ONLY ate vegetarian Indian food and ONLY drank bottled water and beer, lots and lots of beer.
posted by DelusionsofGrandeur at 12:26 AM on February 12, 2007

Osmanthus may seem paranoid, but he's right on the money at prevention: avoid any and all water sources. That includes fruits, washed plates, even water you use to brush your teeth. If you are going someplace where you think they won't sell bottled water, get your own filter and/or iodine treatments.

The first time I was in Africa and had to deal with the "toilet = hole in the floor" and "toilet paper = your hand and a bucket of water", I was so paranoid about coming down with a food-borne illness that I only drank Coke the whole time and brushed my teeth without water. When I was in Asia I used one of these, which also works great in jungles.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:29 AM on February 12, 2007

I traveled for about a month in India and didn't get sick until about 2 days before I left.

I finally got sick because I went to a stupid goddamned European-style coffee house in Bombay and had something with cream in it. That was so stupid. I was sick for about 4 days. That meant I felt ill and had diarrhea. I never vomited from it.

I've been sick a few times while traveling in places with similar levels of hygiene and it always involved diarrhea - never vomiting.

A good way to avoid getting sick is by eating from places where a lot of people are eating from. This lets you know that the place is somewhat reputable but mostly it lets you know that the food is MOVING through the place. That is, it's not sitting around all day.

Avoid ice - the water the ice is made with is not filtered and bad microorganisms can survive getting frozen. Don't eat fresh vegetables - they've been washed in nasty shit-water! If you must eat fruit, eat fruit that's been freshly-peeled and not washed after that has been done.

Focus on eating food that's freshly made and piping hot. I ate food from all kinds of street vendors - sometimes almost exclusively (especially on long train rides) and never got sick from their food. NEVER.

Only drink reputable bottled water. Only. Brush your teeth with it. Rinse your toothbrush with it! Consider always having some on-hand.

I understand you have a phobia, but this isn't a situation you have no control over. You can avoid getting sick if you pay attention! Enjoy your trip. India is absolutely amazing!
posted by redteam at 12:30 AM on February 12, 2007

I can't give you graphic details, but as a fellow phobic, of needles to the degree that I won't get blood work and have refused IVs from EMTs, and as a panic-disordered person with a lot of treatment experience, I have some advice. You need a gameplan. You need to avoid vomiting, to be sure, but if you should feel you are going to vomit, you need to know in advance what you will do.

My first thought on that count is that you should get mighty drunk. It's easier in my experience, to puke when you're spinning sloshy drunk. I know, that's not doctor's advice and I feel the reactionaries' jaws hitting the desks now, but I know that with a phobia, you want to know you're 100% safe from it or tune it 100% out. So my other suggestion is... harder drugs! Xanax or sleeping pills. Take the dugs to avoid being sick right along with the drugs to fear it less. If you've never taken Xanax or similar, try it before you go to feel you can rely on it. Tell the doc what you need, I think any reasonable med would give you several doses of a sedative that will render you physically unable to experience phobia.

See other threads about panic and phobias, and get as much done to get a grip on it before you go. It can absolutely be done. My arachnophobic best friend is always asking me for advice about how to get help and then assuring me and herself that if she seeks help, they'll make her confront her fear. Nonsense. You're doing something similar here, working yourself up all the more by asking about the likelihood fo an attack, when you can't guarantee you can avoid one and you'll be unnerved the whole while knowing that. Gameplan.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:47 AM on February 12, 2007

You all rock. Really. Thank you. I PROMISE to love India. I promise to love India even if it makes me..."bad" sick. I'm going with friends that are Indian who feel almost like family, so I'm safe emotionally, and they know I'm nuts, so that helps. But, them having Indian stomach flora even after years in the US, they really just look at me funny and say they have no idea what might make me sick, 'cept the stuff that would make them or anyone sick. And then they smile and pat my dumb white head, and tell me how beautiful "home" is. And that it is worth it. I believe them.

So, I have never been so excited about something I really (don'! DO!) want to do!!

Please keep the info coming!

posted by metasav at 12:57 AM on February 12, 2007

oh, and ambrosia voyeur, you are smart McSmarty Pants! AMEN to the drugs. I used this when SUPER phobic as a teenager. Carried a little dose of highly illegal um...yup. Drug. Never had to use it, but made me feel much safer knowing if the deed had to be done, I wouldn't actually care. Forgot about this for years, but it's perfect. Good on ya.
posted by metasav at 1:04 AM on February 12, 2007

Most of the people I know who got sick, myself included, had diahrrea, most likely from Giardiasis. Easy to treat.
I echo the suggestion to take an anti-emetic with you. I used Buccastem which melts on the tongue and is very fast acting
posted by Wilder at 1:58 AM on February 12, 2007

My parents, who are huge foodies, ate voraciously in India and were just fine. It was the ice in the airport lounge en route home that got them. I have never seen two people so sick with diarrhea in my life - but there was no vomiting.
posted by meerkatty at 2:27 AM on February 12, 2007

I'm going to jump in and third the "did fine until the Western food." Dang, TGIFs went through me quicker than I would have liked. I actually felt like apologizing to the cleaning crew at the Bangalore Airport restroom.

I'll also echo the bottled water only, for everything including brushing the teeth. A few friends laughed at me for doing this, until they had the diarrhea.

Thanks for this question, I'm off to India this weekend, and needed this reminder.
posted by vagabond at 3:16 AM on February 12, 2007

until we got to Delhi and thought it time for a Western meal

Same. Bad call. If it looks sus, don't touch it. Don't be sucked in by your reflexes and uncritical acceptance of the familiar-seeming.
posted by Wolof at 3:39 AM on February 12, 2007

I'm in India right now, and after reading through everything people have said, I thought I'd echo some more thoughts (or at least consolidate everything a bit).

1) Bottled Water. Duh. This is a no-brainer. Yes, for everything. Also, carefully note the safety seal on it. Unscrupulous vendors have been known to refill the old bottles. If you drink bottled water, crush the bottle afterwards so they won't do this.

2) Soda. Only drink soda in cans that you can open. When the soda comes in bottles, they're just using water from wherever, mixing it with the soda, and putting it back in the bottle.

3) You'll notice a lot of "I was fine until the western meal." Just because it looks shiny and familiar doesn't mean you should let your guard down.

4) Carry hand-sanitizer. A lot of it.

5) Christ, you're going in 7 months? In August? Have fun with the heat and the rain. Bring lots and lots and lots of mosquito repellent. Both lotion and spray. Consider buying a mosquito net as well. The mosquitoes are vicious here, especially for Americans (they're attracted to our cologne, body spray, etc.) Even with all the above, i've averaged about a bite a day (and i've almost been here a month!)

6) Eat only vegetarian food. Don't eat the meat. It might not even be chicken (it might be monkey...yes this has happened to me!). If you enjoy meat, you're asking for trouble. Cooks in India are often themselves vegetarian, so they don't really know when meat is "done."

7) Don't eat raw vegetables or fruits in restaurants. You're going in prime mango season, so you don't want to miss out on that, but buy them from the vegetable-guys that walk by. They'll be fresher than in the restaurant.

8) No ice. get used to warm water.

9) Personal advice- Don't go to the Indian malls. They're new and shiny, but they're way overrated. India's changing a lot, so it's becoming more westernized. Indians there might be amazed by them and tell you to check it out, but it's like walking into a Hecht's/Macy's/Foley's. Go off the beaten track and go to the bazaar's. Also, if you want something, just walk by it and tell your Indian friends about it later. Let them go back and bargain for you. Because you're white, you'll pay a "tax" of 100%.
posted by unexpected at 5:38 AM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Some friends of mine claim they avoided illness on a month-long trip to India through constant, obsessive use of alcohol based hand sanitizer (like Purell). They even used it to sterilize utensils at restaurants before they ate.
posted by footnote at 6:16 AM on February 12, 2007

I got sick a couple of times in the month I spent in India. My trip there was a part of about five months spent doing a budget travel route (The Lonely Planet circuit) through SE Asia/Nepal/India. I was hit with diarrhea about 20 days into the trip and it basically never left and didn't clear up until I'd been back int he states for about a month.

The first time I was sick in India it was just after I arrived and it happened after eating at a very posh hotel. It was a hellacious 15 hour food poisoning episode that involved violent, simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea.

The second time occurred while staying on a houseboat in Kashmir and involved very serious bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and dehydration but no vomiting; it was diagnosed as bacterial dysentery.
posted by donovan at 6:22 AM on February 12, 2007

metasav, the super-careful advice is good for restaurants, but you can probably relax a little when eating in people's homes. Especially if they know you are "nuts" and are willing to make a few accommodations in terms of cleaning vegetables and such. But really, as long as their counters and hands are clean, you're unlikely to get a stomach virus from them.

When my mom was in India in the 70s she got something that involved a lot of vomiting and diarrhea. An Indian doctor gave her an opiate derivative that temporarily paralysed her entire digestive tract, and when it wore off, she didn't have to vomit any more. So, as part of my game plan, I would find a decent doctor and explain your condition and find out if they have anything like that that they would be willing to prescribe in case of illness.

When I was in India in the 80s, I never had any problems eating at people's houses, which is mostly what we did. I did get a little diarrhea after eating at a restaurant and ordering a burger.
posted by carmen at 6:38 AM on February 12, 2007

I was in India three times for a total of 13 weeks, all about 10-12 years ago. I never got sick.

I did what many other people here have noted:

1. I never drank tap water or used it to brush my teeth. Bottled water, tea, coffee, and horrible Indian sodas like Limca were my normal beverages. (This was before Coke and such were allowed into India.) I also tossed out some sodas on first sip when they didn't seem to have any fizz, and I feared they were colored water.

2. I didn't use ice. (I learned my lesson on that one on a trip to Mexico many years before. Boy, did I feel stupid after avoiding tap water and then having a drink with ice cubes. Major diarrhea.)

3. I did the basic if-in-doubt food rules: no uncooked vegetables, no unpeeled fruit. I saw someone at a fancy Western hotel remove the tomato slice and lettuce from the top of his hamburger, and I would have done the same.

4. I ate purely vegetarian, even though I'm not a vegetarian at home. The exception was when I was eating in someone's home, and they were cooking/serving a non-veggie dish. It never felt like a sacrifice; the veggie food was wonderful.

5. I generally avoided milk and milk products, such as ice cream. (I think I had one ice cream type product, and that was under special circumstances when I had reason to trust it.)
posted by jeri at 6:54 AM on February 12, 2007

Also if you're going to avoid the water, avoid the ice. It's amazing how often I seen travellers drinking sodas to avoid the water, and what's in that glass? Ice cubes.

It wasn't in India, but rather Egypt but this happened to me. My friend and I had the exact same meals and drinks but I had my cocktail on the rocks. That was one bad night in my hotel let me tell ya.
posted by mmascolino at 7:05 AM on February 12, 2007

I think everyone has good advice here. I went to India for four weeks, two years ago. I got sick mildly, but it was as expected (Traveler's Diarrhea), no vomiting, just diarrhea.

Avoiding ice and drinking bottled water is a good idea. Also, be careful about fish, especially if you're inland.

Otherwise, I was fine -- I ate veg and non-veg alike, and I was fine, and I drank sodas instead of water if I could help it. I had diarrhea in the second week that I got there, when I let my guard down, but after that I ate like everyone else and was fine. I think your body needs time to adjust to the water in general as well. Granted, I stayed around a single location for those four weeks.
posted by suedehead at 8:42 AM on February 12, 2007

Hey, I happen to like Limca:)

metasav, congratulations on your getting to visit India. I hope you have a wonderful time when you visit here.
The others have already said what’s needed to be said I suppose, so I’ll just add to the chorus.
Yes, for a neophyte—bottled water is very important. And please do make sure that the bottle is properly sealed as unexpected suggests.
As far as food is concerned, well—if it’s homemade, then that would be best. If you do happen to eat outside, I suppose it will depend on where you eat, and how tolerable your stomach is to the tastes of India. Just ask your friends to get your back, and I’m sure you’ll be fine. (Fine meaning that you won’t throw-up, but you will have Diarrhea most probably.)
I’ve been living in India for the past thirteen years, and sometimes if I have something from a roadside stall, and it doesn’t sit too well with my stomach, I usually have to spend the obligatory time in the loo. But I don’t think I’ve ever thrown up from eating something from here.

Also—yes, please bring lots and lots of mosquito repellant and Hand sanitizer.
posted by hadjiboy at 8:53 AM on February 12, 2007

I've never been to India, but I have been to China a number of times and I imagine the hygiene issues are similar. I would only repeat most of what was said above (bottled water, don't eat fresh fruit you can't peel like bananas, hand sanitizer is your friend, carry toilet paper everywhere, get your shots before you go, etc etc).

The one thing I do have to add is that Pepto Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) is Your Friend. I don't know if it will actually help with vomiting in particular, but it certainly appears to help keep you from getting sick, and it's a pretty cheap and easy preventative measure.
posted by doorsnake at 9:31 AM on February 12, 2007

I was in India for a month this past December (for a wedding too!) and I didn't get anything remotely close the sickly horror stories I heard and read. I had one bout of diarrhea, but honestly, I probably get that once a month while at home anyway. No vomiting, no fever, no nothing.

As you've probably read, stay away from the water, and anything the water has touched. I brushed my teeth with bottled water and kept my mouth closed while showering. Do not eat anything that might have been washed with local water and not cooked -- this includes salad, raw veggies, fruits, and whatnot. Water is probably your biggest no-no, and when you arrive in India you will see why.

I ate all sorts of weird foods, but I was smart about it. Stick to busy restaurants (if lots of people are eating there, it's probably OK) and be weary of street foods (though still try them!)

Oh, I didn't eat meat, either. I'm not a vegetarian, but I was in India -- the food was awesome and easy to come by, and I saw no reason to supplement the already-great dishes with meat. I'd recommend you do the same, as it seems like undercooked/bad meat is where the real nasties lie.

Also check out
posted by nitsuj at 10:56 AM on February 12, 2007

Emetophobics Unite! While I wouldn't wish this phobia on anyone, it IS satisfying to know I'm not the only one...

On my one and only trip to Mexico I contracted a Rotavirus. This is a common water and foodborn virus that comes from sewage-contaminated water or handling. It was not only horribly vomit- inducing, it nearly killed me due to rapid dehydration. Thankfully I didn't get sick until the day after I arrived home, so I had my normal doctor around.

On a recent trip to Central America, my BF brought along his Katadyn water filter. He always kept a full bottle of filtered water in the car, one in the kitchen, and one in the bathroom. (We also drank a lot of beer.) Before the trip we visited a very nice doctor who does travel consulting, and he gave us Cipro, Phenergan, and rehydration salts, as well as lots of printed info about what to do if a, b, or c happened. I never even got "the runs..." felt fine the entire trip.

I think the main difference was traveling with someone who was willing to take me seriously and help me take care of myself. In Mexico my travel companions were less than helpful, and sometimes hindered my need to be cautious. It was plain disrespect, and I finally gave in so I wouldn't always have to be the spoil-sport. I paid for it.

Being prepared with the right meds on hand, in case, will help take the fear away. If you get queasy, take the phenergan, or whatever, and just go to bed. It will cut your nausea right out, and then make you sleep for a while. It's amazing stuff, and I take it everywhere I travel.

Somes more tip. Find a commonly available dish or food that you can eat without trepidation, and always order that. Make it something hot, if you can stand eating hot food in that climate. When you get overheated, don't be tempted by the usual cooling stuff: ice, cold water, etc. It's easy to want to give in. In Central America we partially froze our filtered water overnight, and during the day it was cold and delicious.
posted by shifafa at 2:08 PM on February 12, 2007

That should be "some more tips." And I even previewed! /dork
posted by shifafa at 2:10 PM on February 12, 2007

I'm not exactly phobic, but I hate to throw up. If you begin to feel nauseated, sip water or something. The action of swallowing tends to relieve the heaves. There are effective anti-emetics, which you could have with you. Ask a pharmacist for their recommendation; they are the experts on meds.

When I think I may end up throwing up anyway, I drink gingerale, as it is least nasty. Ginger is reputed to be anti-emetic, as well. And seabands have been used by pregnant women with morning sickness. Having sea bands, prescription anti-emetic, and candied ginger might give you enough confidence to travel. Good luck
posted by theora55 at 2:35 PM on February 12, 2007

Lots of good advice here. I have been to India twice for 2 weeks/2 months respectively and I don't recall ever vomiting. I've also had LOTS of food and water-borne viruses and hardly ever vomited.

A few comments:
-I wouldn't let your guard down too much in people's homes - despite their best intentions, they may get you sick because they don't know how to properly clean/prepare food that won't get you sick. For example, they may wash your vegetables/lettuce in bottled water, but that probably won't be enough to kill the germs that can get you sick (you may need a bleach/water concoction for that). Another example: they may make you ice cubs using bottled water, but if THEY have been scammed on the bottled water, you're screwed. So just be careful about this stuff, as a rule.
-Bottled water - I recommend treating bottled water with iodine tablets (and/or filtering). It even happens that bottles are filled with water & plastic seals are put on them. So I just treat bottled water as better than tap, but still potentially dangerous. Don't feel bad about this, just do it. Most travelers do anyway.
-Taking anti-vomit medicine and/or pepto. I would ask a doctor about this (anti-vomit medicine). If you are ill, you don't necessarily want to keep this stuff in. It might not be the optimum time to be taking anti-vomit (or the plug kind of anti-diarrhea medicine like imodium). Pepto helps with diahhrea for sure - SLOWS, but doesn't plug - but doesn't help much if at all with vomiting, IMO.

Enjoy! It should be great. And if you do have an iron stomach, you probably won't need all these precautions anyway. But better safe than sorry.
posted by Amizu at 2:51 PM on February 12, 2007

When in a foreign country we have a tendency to assume that people who look western are cleanly. Big mistake

No advice; I just wanted to say that if you want to convince yourself of this, hang out in a public restroom near home and see how many people leave without washing their hands.
posted by sleeplessunderwater at 8:31 PM on February 12, 2007

When in a foreign country we have a tendency to assume that people who look western are cleanly. Big mistake

Please don't go to anyone else's country if you think that just because their ways are different, they are unclean. You smear poo around on your bottom with dry tissue instead of cleaning with water, and you eat with the same hand, don't you? Well some Indians think your bathroom habits are disgusting.

We Westerners are sensitive to some food-borne pathogens native Indians are not, and therefore have to be careful what we eat. It doesn't mean people are slovenly and dirty. Perhaps going at it with that mindset will make your experience more positive, even if you do get sick.
posted by Methylviolet at 9:42 PM on February 12, 2007

Well, I surely do not think Indians are dirty. Oh, No no NO no no. I think India is filled with really different um "stuff" that gives them different stomach flora than my own, it seems many westerners get sick, and i am trying not to be one of them. Simple as that. And the country itself is super huge, and varied, and

Trust, my roomate is this chill, super easy going dude who showers twice a day. Every day. um...why? I just think he likes the "showering" bit. I would crack and bleed to death from dryness if I tried this, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't think I'm a dirty westerner for not doing so. However, I could be wrong...

Methylviolet, I hope you aren't trying to be rude to me, but you are making a fairly harsh statement about my country-peeps. Not a single person has blamed Indians or India for that matter for the stomach problems they have had. Most people have blamed "western" food for getting them sick. And it's just one of those places, eh?

(I'm a lefty, and my Indian peeps tell me to learn to eat righty, but also tell me things are changing and it wouldn't be SO bad if i accidentally use my left.)

Your statement seems a bit pissed off, and not at me. I am grateful for such a huge population of people who have such a rad history to be so nice to me when i show up in their markets or bazaars to buy atta or dal or fenugreek or curry leaves, or ask what the dried pomegranate is called or how many american serrano chiles equal a cayenne. They all think it's so sweet or cute or just nice that i am trying so hard to really understand how to properly cook food from south asia. I guess most americans don't dive into this with all limbs in sharks distance, but i have, and pretty much everyone asks "why?" Which drives me crazy cause i live in this crazy awesome melting pot of cultures and everyone respects and shares....oh. Sorry. Fell asleep. Had a cool dream.

Indians, as it turns out/seems to me in my experience, are much more willing to try, eat, and enjoy other cultures food than "whiteys". And incredibly willing to help those really trying to cook their food.

I love it. It makes my heart smile. I just have this huge wacky problem, and most of ya'll have been SO helpful. I'm grateful for all the advice i get and have gotten.

But i sure as hell ain't goin' to India thinking the peeps there are unclean. I did not infer this, and do not believe it.

I'm still hoping for any more info I can get, so far, you all are just as amazingly helpful as usual. Keep it coming...
posted by metasav at 12:43 AM on February 13, 2007

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