How to Not Get Sick in Cancun: 6 Tips From A Local


woman holder her head and not feeling well

Montezuma’s revenge, also known as travelers diarrhea, has wrecked many travelers’ vacations, including Cancun. Knowing how you can get sick could prevent many bellyaches and visits to hotel restrooms when you should be enjoying the fantastic sensory. 

How to not get sick in Cancun? There are many precautions to take to prevent getting sick while vacationing in Cancun like washing your hands often, drinking bottled water, and not swallowing pool water. Your immune system influences whether or not you’ll end up sick as well.   

There is a possibility you may not get sick in Cancun, but it never hurts to take extra steps to ensure your health visiting another area. Keeping up to date with your vaccinations, taking caution while outdoors, and eating wisely while you’re on vacation can reduce your risk of getting sick!

How to Avoid Getting Sick in Cancun

You can potentially reduce your chances of getting sick during your vacation to Cancun if you invest in the time to research what could make you sick during your visit and how to avoid it. 

The risk of getting sick while vacationing in Cancun can be avoided if you follow these precautionary measures:

  1. Wash Your Hands Often.
  2. Drink Bottled Water
  3. Avoid Swallowing Pool Water
  4. Caution Exploring Outdoors
  5. Eat Wisely    
  6. Update Travel Vaccinations

Wash Your Hands Often

This just seems like common sense and good hygiene. Some sicknesses can be easily avoided just by simply washing your hands. Not just before eating meals, but all throughout the day. Especially after using the restroom. 

Germs can survive on hands for up to 3 hours, and they double in quantity after using the bathroom. Think of all the items you touch in a day. Germs are everywhere, and daily activities transfer them from object to object without thought.

A gross fact about cell phones is there are more germs on them than a toilet seat. Think about that next time you bring your phone to the dinner table. Be sure to wash your hands, you filthy animals.

Just because you washed your hands from a faucet doesn’t guarantee your hands are clean after your rinse. If the water source is tap water, you may not be cleaning your hands, especially if soap isn’t available. 

If the faucet has a handle, you need to hold down or pull up and hold while you’re washing your hands, it is not the cleanest. I would follow up with a sanitizer so the alcohol could kill off any remaining bacteria. 

https://www.medonegroup.com/aboutus/blog/your-hands

Drink Bottled Water 

While it may save a couple of bucks to drink from the tap, it may not be the best choice in Mexico. Now, public water systems should all be purified and follow health regulation for drinking water; however, being that it’s a new water source, especially in a foreign country, it could upset your stomach. 

This is why locals typically do not have any issues to the water sources because they have built up a tolerance for it.

Water is essential no matter where you go, but dehydration should be taken seriously in this area because the daytime temperatures can reach extreme heats. Drinking more than you normally would on a daily basis is recommended while engaging in outdoor activity. 

When ordering drinks out, make sure you watch the preparation of them being made and ask for no ice. Although the ice should be from purified water, it is suggested to stay away from ice in beverages.

Be precautious where you buy open drinks from as well. If the place looks unhygienic, it’s best just to wait for a drink elsewhere. Just to be safe, stick with closed beverages. 

Avoid Tap Water in All Aspects if Possible

Some people suggest even going as far as avoiding using tap water to brush your teeth to avoid the risk of getting ill. Showering in tap water should be okay. It is just recommended to avoid getting it in your mouth and eyes. 

Consider following up washing your hands with sanitizer if you are unsure if the water you are using to rinse with is tap water. 

Not just for hand washing, but do not consume foods that have been rinsed with tap water as well for safety. 

Most hotels or resorts will provide bottled water for its visitors, but in the case you cannot access bottled water, make sure your available water source is purified or filtered. 

Avoid Swallowing Pool Water

As simple as this sounds, how many times have you accidentally swallowed pool water while in a public pool? It happens, and sometimes you just can’t help it splashing around and having fun.

While swimming, not just in Cancun, but anywhere in a public pool, you should always take extra precautions about getting water in your mouth. Public pools should be chlorinated and chemically balanced to kill bacteria, but bacteria thrive in places with the slightest imbalance. 

Swallowing pool water can cause upset stomachs and unpleasant trips to the restroom instead of soaking up the sun. 

Caution Exploring the Outdoors

Take a tip from the locals, the sun is hot and can cause some illness if you do not take caution when exploring outdoors. That includes just sitting by the pool, going on hikes or swimming in cenotes.

Sunscreen is the solution to avoid getting sunburn. Re-apply every so often while spending long hours in the hot sun. Stay hydrated and seek shade to avoid heat strokes or heat exhaustion.

Heat exhaustion and dehydration have similar symptoms to Montezuma’s revenge. So just be sure to stay hydrated and drink more when you’re exerting more energy, especially in the blistering heat.

Bug Bites

Another valuable resource to keep on hand while outdoors is bug spray. Mexico has mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks, all of which can carry some nasty diseases. Some of these diseases include:

  • Chagas diseases
  • Dengue
  • Leishmaniasis

Luckily, areas near resorts have rare reports of these illnesses, but if you go hiking outside of the resorts, take caution and lay on the bug spray. It is recommended that pregnant women avoid Mexico during their term to avoid any chances of getting any of these illnesses, but especially Zika, which is a virus that affects unborn babies.

In addition to bug spray, fans and screens can also keep bugs at bay.

Swimming in Freshwater

Not only should you concern yourself with bugs that bite, but you should also know about the bugs you cannot see, especially in freshwater, ponds, or natural waterways. Cancun has awesome hiking experience and cenotes, which is where you could pick up one of these gross bacterias without even knowing it until the symptoms set in.

Bacteria like Leptospira interrogans are found in freshwater, such as lakes, ponds, or rivers. They cause Leptospirosis, which is a bacterial infection that can become severe. The warm temperature may be tempting to jump in, but it’s recommended to steer clear if you want to avoid getting sick.

In the event you become ill and become jaundiced, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Eat Wisely 

Just as you should take caution when ordering drinks, you should be mindful of what foods you ingest on your trip. Buffets are notorious for making travelers ill. The number of germs at these restaurants has come from all the hands touching the same serving utensils.

Some foods like pizzas or other finger foods are served at buffets. So the item you just scooped onto your plate, using a utensil that about 100 more people have touched, just transferred all those germs on your hands which you are about to use to eat with.

I suggest while eating at a buffet, take some sanitizer or wash your hands before indulging in your meal. 

Not every restaurant is unhygienic, so do not let that stop you from eating out. It is just wise to look into reviews and follow where the lines are. 

Raw Foods 

Buffets are not the only food service joint; you should be precautious. Raw meats and other raw food should definitely be avoided if you don’t want to get sick.

You see, uncooked foods, raw foods, or even unwashed foods can carry bacterias. When that bacteria enters your body, it can cause an intestinal infection. The most common bacteria is E.coli, which festers in unclean foods and water.

Street Foods

Street vendors provide some of the tastiest foods, but these areas can tend to have a bad reputation for cleanliness. Some places do not refrigerate their sauces or foods are left out at room temperatures for long periods of time prior to consumption.

It’s impossible to determine without asking if the stands are using tap water or not, so it should be assumed the water could potentially make you sick that is being used to prep your food. If those tasty tacos are too delicious smelling to pass up, you can always ask the vendor about the sources they use.

Pro Tip: Squeeze lemon on your food before eating. The acidity helps back down the bacteria if present.

Mitch

Another thing it is best to avoid any meats in Mexico unless you can trust the source it is coming from like a resort or well-known restaurant. We wrote an essentials guide on where the locals eat in Cancun. Check it out here.

USA Today’s 10 best list is here. You’ll see the top 10 places to eat in Cancun.

Nobody wants to think about the food they are ingesting to contain bacteria of any form, but that’s what makes us sick. We put that thought in hindsight and eat without a second thought. Next thing we know, we have a traveler’s diarrhea and swear we’ll never eat street food again! 

Over Eating: Who doesn’t! 

Cancun has plenty of eateries and makes it easy to overindulge. In some cases, this is the underlying issue of most common vacation sickness. While people blame the water or blame food poisoning, it’s their alcohol consumption or food intake, that is the issue.

Spicy and salty foods cause dehydration on top of alcohol drinking. Mexico is known for its spicy dishes! So keep in mind what you’re doing to yourself when you combine your meal with an alcoholic beverage. 

Coconut is a natural laxative in case you didn’t know. Those fancy coconut drinks could be the culprit to your upset stomach if you have one too many and also too much guacamole! 

Not saying you can’t enjoy eating, but you really should set yourself a limit to avoid getting sick!

Update Travel Vaccinations

There are plenty of things you can do to protect yourself while you are vacationing in Cancun, but you can start before you even leave your home state by ensuring you have all the proper vaccinations for traveling.

Vaccinations:

  • Annual Flu Shot
  • Hepatitis A
  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis B
  • Malaria

The Centers for Disease Control recommends vaccinations, especially when traveling. Most vaccinations are taken care of during childhood, but it’s always good to double-check with your doctor prior to traveling to make sure everything is up to date.

Specifically to Mexico, Hepatitis A and Typhoid are advised since they are related to contamination found in food and water. But the other vaccinations could be beneficial just to be safe.

Common Sense to Avoid Getting Sick

Maybe these tips seem like common sense, but when you’re going on vacation, sometimes your health is the last thing on your mind. You have the luggage, flight times and are ready to go on adventures and thoughts of dining in beautiful Cancun on your mind instead of thinking about what could make you ill. 

Even if you do take the time to consider your health, whether it’s getting vaccinated before you leave or remembering to wash your hands before meals, are you thinking about those around you?

You can keep those safe around you by avoiding getting sick yourself. By following the 6 steps above, but especially to washing your hands and just common courtesy, avoid others if you are sick. As they should avoid you if they are sick. 

Cover your mouth when you cough with your sleeve or into a tissue and wash your hands. 

Traveling in General

Traveling in general, especially long trips, can weaken your body. It is not only food or drinks in Cancun that could make you ill, but just traveling to the location can wear out your body and make you feel less than par. Getting plenty of rest before traveling and giving yourself enough recovery time once you arrive to help with this. 

It is understandable with all the excitement of being on vacation and arriving on-site that you just want to explore and start living it up, but taking a moment to recoup could make a difference for the entirety of the trip. 

You will feel more rested and be able to enjoy more of the trip and really have a great experience. If you jump into action too soon, you could risk getting sick from just being exhausted.

Know Your Immune System

You know your body best and what your limitations are. Some people may have a strong stomach, and nothing they eat upsets them. So enjoying buffets or eating foods from local vendors in the street may not affect those as it would someone with a sensitive stomach.

So do not let the reputation of Montezuma’s revenge stop you from booking that lifetime trip to Cancun when you may not even get sick. However, I would highly recommend taking precautions where you can just in case, so your trip isn’t disrupted by upset stomachs or even worse contracting some sort of disease.

Getting any disease would be unpleasant; by some say that getting a disease outside of the country can make the experience much worse. Just take the necessary steps before you go, listen to your body, and make smart decisions.

After all, no one wants to spend their vacation under the weather when you should be out enjoying the experience!

What You Can Do If You End Up Sick

Worst-case scenario, you end up getting sick. Do not fret because there are solutions to help you feel better. There are medicines you can take to help an upset stomach. These include antibiotics prescribed by a family doctor or health care provider or over the counter medicines like Pepto Bismol and Imodium.

Some say that Imodium is stronger than Pepto Bismol, but Pepto has always been a winner in my household, so I would recommend it. But what’s available to you as far as those two should give you some relief. 

I would suggest keeping one or the other one hand in the event Montezuma revenge gets summoned when you least expect it.

Additionally, you could take the probiotic acidophilus before you even visit Cancun to help strengthen the healthy bacteria in your stomach to prepare you for those spicy foods you want to eat.

You can also check out this blog we wrote about what to do if you get sick in Cancun.

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