How PWAs can eat, drink and be merry while exploring the world
Eating well, a constant challenge for PWAs even at home, gets much trickier on the road. Sometimes it's so daunting that people with compromised immune systems who would like to travel, don't. Those who do may encounter serious health risks. Widespread Micro- or Cryptosporidium in water supplies, as well as food spoilage-germs run rampant-can do more than ruin a meal or a vacation: They can kill you. But following a few basic guidelines, particularly for those with low CD4 counts, can put the wanderlust back in anyone's life. Some well-chosen tools and we're talking road trip.
First, remember that travel to Europe won't present the same culinary dilemmas as travel to South America or, for that matter, Illinois. But just because the location is familiar, don't assume there are no risks. Talk to your doctor about your particular vulnerabilities in the place you're going.
Of course, doctors can't do anything about airline food. Perfectly healthy people swear the stuff will kill you. To avoid safety risks, don't eat any prepared foods, especially those containing meat or mayonnaise, served cold on a plane. You can eat fruit, but peel it. Fortunately, airlines aren't feeding passengers as often these days.
Whether you're going by air, sea or land, a little preparedness is in order. Seasoned travelers suggest investing in a portable cooler to store your own food. With cooler, thermos, freezable icepacks, stops for ice and distilled water, you can reduce your need for restaurants and enjoy the proverbial "moveable feast." Be sure to keep perishables cold; obtain dairy products, mayonnaise and the like in small-size packs. And don't eat ice. Remember: Bad water=bad ice. In restaurants, request "no-ice" drinks and be emphatic about it.
Water is a primary concern under the best of conditions. At eight pounds per gallon, you can't easily carry your own. If you don't have access to distilled water, you might consider buying the PUR Portable Purifier, which includes its own cup. Sold for $50 by the PUR company, it meets Environmental Protection Agency standards, eliminating more than 99.99 percent of viruses, bacteria and protozoa in water. A friend who has had Cryptosporidium used this in the jungles of the Amazon and had no problems.
Another worthwhile travel tool is a knife for peeling produce that may have been washed in contaminated local water. The best type is a multitool Swiss Army knife (if flying, pack it n your luggage to avoid problems with airport security). This knife includes a can opener. Because of the intense heating process in canning, canned foods are germ-proof. High heat kills germs.
Packaged chips and trail mix are good for those who crave a little crunch. Breads keep without refrigeration for days. Individual cans of tuna or hard-boiled eggs (always keep on ice) provide substantial protein; canned fruits and vegetables can minimize the diarrhea that raw produce may cause.
In the event that diarrhea does strike, pack some electrolyte-replacement drinks such as Infalyte or MET-Rx or, for less weight and greater volume, powered Cera Lyte (if you’ll have access to safe water).
There are many kinds of easy fixings, such as instant oatmeal and soups, that can make travel simple. Prepackaged foods and nutritional drinks can stave off fatigue and provide weight-loss protection on the road.
In restaurants, soups are a no-no unless you can be sure they have been brought to a full boil for at least a minute. With meats, “well-done” is the only way to go. No pink, period. It’s best-HIV or not-to avoid ground meats. They present the greatest risk of contamination because surface bacteria is mixed into the meat. And thanks to widespread E. coli, meats (both ground and unground) can be little more than toxic waste unless fully cooked. That means an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Repeat the mantra: High heat kills germs!
Seafood is, well, fishy and “no” is what you should say unless, again, it is thoroughly cooked. That means no soft spots, no rare tuna and no sushi or ceviche. And since most produce is washed in the local water, it’s best to take a pass on salads.
Being prepared, informed and careful is all it takes. In the end, don’t tie yourself up in knots about what you can and cannot eat. Travel, like good food, should be about pleasure. Common sense can be your passport to a broader and healthier horizon.
Information about portable water purifiers is available from PUR, 800.845.PURE.