The last thing any iguana (or traveler) wants is to get sick, and though it often comes with the territory, there are simple ways to prevent it. Or most of it. If you do find yourself sick in Mexico, we just want to report that our empirical medical evidence suggests that Blue Iguana Tequila can kill even the heartiest parasite.
You know the old adage “don’t drink the water?” Well don’t. If it comes from the tap, it can contain bacteria, amoebas or a whole host of other parasites. Some hostels, restaurants or guest houses have an in house filtration system, but unless notified directly, drink bottled only. Garafones, the five gallon jugs of water, are what you’ll see most commonly. This water is purified and safe to drink. When on the move, it’s always good to stay hydrated, but if you hit the tap in the middle of a thirsty night, you may regret it.
Bottled water is the safest thing next to tequila
Beware the salsa! When in doubt, drink more tequila.
Eating on the street can be totally safe or laden with parasites. It really depends on the climate, the specific location and whether you have an iron-traveler-stomach. The most important (and most painful) thing to avoid is the salsa (a single tear.) Though I genuinely lament saying it, the salsa is a breeding ground for bacteria. There are several reasons for this. If it’s a stand on the street, they generally have no refrigeration. The salsa is made in the morning and then left out all day in the heat. These are prime cultivation conditions. If there is an inside seating area, then the salsa will be better preserved (usually in a fridge, if not a soda cooler), and thusly, at your delighted disposal to eat.
Fruit and Veggies
If you err on the side of caution or if, like me, you’ve had typhoid, you may prefer to prepare your own grub wherever you lay your head. Fruit and veggies (especially the ones with edible skin or roots), which are scrumptious in this area of the world, must be disinfected for 10 – 15 minutes in an iodine solution called “micro-dyn” or “bac-dyn.” If you prefer a softer, more natural approach to parasite assassination, there is a grapefruit seed concentrate that can be used in lieu of iodine, but in order to find it you have to be somewhere that has natural food stores.
Fresh fish or no fish.
This seems like common sense, but if you’re landlocked, only eat seafood at restaurants that have high turnover. A good rule of thumb is if they sell a lot, it comes in fresh a lot. Often, freezers are turned off at night, allowing meat, fish and other frozen items to thaw slightly and refreeze. Bad news for your stomach. If you’re not by a coast, don’t eat ceviche or sushi. If you are near a coast, rock it out. Because what’s more delicious than ceviche? If you buy fish at a market or grocery store to cook it where you’re staying (and again, you’re not by the ocean) be sure you ask for it “bien congelado” (well-frozen.)
Wear them. I’m all for you peace-loving hippie types, but soil transmitted parasites are no joke. While they can be ingested through unwashed fruits and vegetables, the larvae can also directly penetrate the skin (especially the feet.) The most common example is hookworm. You don’t need to have a cut or even a blister to get infected. In other words, get some huaraches and keep them on your feet.