No matter how well prepared you are for every eventuality, the one you didn’t think of is the one your child comes up with. Kids are creatively grubby. And depending on the age of the child, there is no limit to their curiosity.
One child that I knew tested her mother’s limits when she popped up from under the table at a diner (her mother had been distracted by her siblings) chewing something. With a blissful smile, the little one declared, “Oh my favorite, peppermint,” describing the gum she had pulled from the underside of the tabletop and put in her mouth. Obviously, this had not been the first time. Major ick factor.
This happened in the U.S. The reason I bring it up is to illustrate how hard it is to monitor our kids even as attentive parents. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and disgusting by turns. I’ve never looked under a table in a restaurant in Ecuador so I can’t speak to what the temptations might be to your little ones. However, there are commonplace situations that might be hazardous to their health and yours…at least in the short term.
Watch out for street food
Street food, raw food, fruit juices that weren’t prepared in your kitchen all offer possibilities for contamination. The
sanitation down here can be either non-existent or based on a different understanding of the term.
I can’t name one restaurant in my town with hot water. Dishes are washed by hand with a soap meant for cold water.
In my mountain town in the Andes, the water is potable. In most of the coastal towns, it is not. This means you must buy bottled water for everything. It also means you have to be cautious about where you buy your fruit juice as it is usually diluted with local water.
For the locals, this doesn’t present a problem. They’re used to the food and the water and their immune systems can handle it. They might have a problem coming north to our neck of the woods and adapting to our food and water. This is true for a young mom I know down here. She is from the U.S. but whenever she goes back to visit she has a reaction to the additives in much of the food.
Have the right supplies
Food, especially lovely looking juicy fruits of all descriptions, are sold on the street, on buses, in markets. Often it has been cut up and presented in little cups. Try not to be tempted; or be prepared for a reaction if you just can’t resist. For the most part, I carry my own snacks and haven’t gotten into trouble.
I carry Grapefruit Seed Extract, Dragon’s Blood extract or charcoal capsules. It’s amazing how effective charcoal can be for food poisoning. This isn’t the leftover stuff from your grill. Get it at a health food market or even a pharmacy.
When the subject of organic food comes up here, most of us subscribe to the wishful notion that most, if not all, of the food, is organic. It’s true that it’s usually fresh and often local. One theory is that farmers can’t afford chemical fertilizers and pesticides. I’m not sure how true that is anymore.
Talk to the vendors
The people I go back to at the local market are the ones who tell me straight out that no, these apples probably aren’t organic and nothing else is either today.
They are the ones I trust. There are organic markets around and it’s easy to find out who is growing the produce and how clean it is. I try to buy organic produce but for many people here it’s not a priority.
We tend to be hyper-vigilant in the U.S., often to our detriment. ABC (already been chewed) gum notwithstanding, it’s not a bad thing for little kids to roll in the dirt and play with animals. We don’t need to dowse them with sanitizer whenever they do. The latest news on that is our bodies are made up of more bacteria than human cells by a long shot. We have to keep those little guys happy. It’s a matter of balance which is sometimes hard to maintain. Probiotics to the rescue!
It’s up to individual families what age is most appropriate for their little ones to visit or live in a developing country. Consider your child’s temperament and how much control you might have over their favorite flavors, under the table or on the street!
Traveling with your children? Let us know how you’re keeping them healthy.