It is highly unlikely that you will catch some exotic disease abroad. While this may detract from your ability to match the horror stories (possibly embellished over time) of pioneer fieldworkers, it does mean your life expectancy has not been diminished. Quite simply you should:

  • Be careful about personal hygiene;
  • Be careful about what you eat;
  • Be careful about what you drink; and
  • Be careful around pets and other animals.

What do I drink?

Except in unique locations like Hong Kong and Singapore, “Don’t drink the water” is a piece of advice that is well heeded in ACBM countries. Stick to bottled or canned drinks, in particular well-known brands. Be especially cautious in countries where poor sanitation exists. Ice in a drink might be a hazard as is cleaning your teeth using tap water.

Boiling water for 10 minutes is a reasonably effective method of sterilisation as is the use of purification tablets.

What can I eat? Food is an individual thing. Different foods make different impacts on different people. Some travellers are extraordinarily careful, living on a diet of bottled water and food that has passed the most meticulous of scrutiny, and they still get intestinal problems.

Indiscriminately eating at some local markets may adversely affect the digestive system and is not recommended. When visiting places with doubtful hygiene you should exercise judgement. To assist you in this it is suggested that you:

  • Unless convinced of its safety, avoid cold meat, salads, salad cream and shellfish;
  • Peel fruit and vegetables;
  • Avoid precooked and reheated foods; and
  • If you are preparing food, scrupulously clean all implements before and after use.

When in the homes of brethren and sisters it is courteous to accept what they offer so far as is prudent, but they will normally accept an explanation that you have a fussy stomach. Blame yourself, not the food!

“Be wise as serpents but harmless as doves”.

What if I get diarrhoea?

The normal sickness to afflict the fieldworker is traveller’s diarrhoea. If you do get diarrhoea, the first thing to do is wait. It rarely lasts more than two days. Just make sure you keep up your fluid intake (perhaps in combination with Gastrolyte) otherwise you’ll dehydrate. Avoid fruit juice as it can aggravate diarrhoea. If you have severe symptoms see a doctor without delay.

If mild symptoms persist use Lomotil, Imodium or similar medication. This should slow things down. If symptoms persist, it may be more than traveller’s diarrhoea and you should see a doctor.

What if I fall ill?

If you are unable to treat the illness yourself, you should go straight to the best local health care facility. The local brethren may be able to recommend a good doctor. Don’t forget that your Insurance Card will contain an emergency medical assistance number. In extreme cases the ACBM Insurer or your own insurer can have you flown home or to a country where treatment is available.

Always keep the ACBM Emergency Card with you at all times