How Not to Get Sick in Mexico: 5 Tips on How to Stay Healthy

Wondering how not to get sick in Mexico during your next trip?

I feel you! Every time I travel to a new country I am afraid of getting sick and spoiling my entire vacation.

So in this post, I will tell you all the tricks I know to avoid getting sick while traveling to Mexico.

Mexico is known for its vibrant culture, stunning beaches, delicious cuisine, and much more.

With so much to offer, it’s no surprise that many people flock to this beautiful country to experience it all. 

However, it’s also important to be aware of the potential health risks that come with traveling to a new place.

In this article, I’ll provide you with tips on how to stay healthy in Mexico.

I’ve been living in Mexico for more than 13 years now, and, as you can imagine, I’ve seen a lot of cases where people got sick because they didn’t take the necessary precautions.

I’ll be covering a range of topics to help you stay on top of your health while exploring this exciting country.

Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, following these guidelines will help you enjoy your time in Mexico to the fullest.

WARNING: This post is not meant to give you medical advice, for which you must refer to your physician. Here I am just sharing what are the common health issues in Mexico and how usually people prevent them.

A woman in pain -here's some tips on how not to get sick in Mexico.

Tips on How Not to Get Sick in Mexico

1. Be careful with what and where you eat

Now, you might think that eating at high-end restaurants in Mexico will pretty much guarantee that you don’t get sick.

It’s a reasonable assumption; after all, these places generally have better hygienic standards. But sticking to high-end places will not guarantee a safe vacation.

The reason isn’t that those restaurants are cutting corners. It’s just that your stomach isn’t acclimated to the food and water in the country you’re visiting.

All food and water have bacteria in them; some of those are helpful, and some are harmful.

But your body is only used to the mix of bacteria you encounter regularly.

When you go to a new place and eat the food there, your stomach gets a “surprise”. (More on this in the prebiotics section below)

All that’s to say that you shouldn’t avoid street food in Mexico. After all, Mexican street food is a must-try experience.

And with a bit of caution, you can enjoy all the delicious food that the country has to offer.

In general, avoid buffet restaurants, especially if you suspect the food has been sitting there for a while. As much as possible, opt for food that’s cooked on the spot.

A street food stall that has long lines and a high-turnover rate will generally be a good one. If you eat any meat, ask for it to be cooked more on the well-done side. 

Following these Mexico travel tips will make you that you get to enjoy the delicious food in Mexico while being cautious and aware.

2. Don’t drink tap water

You might come across resorts in Cancun and other tourist destinations claiming that the tap water there is completely safe to drink. 

While it’s true that, in some parts of Mexico, water filtration methods have improved tremendously, I still don’t recommend using tap water anywhere.

It doesn’t matter if you’re staying in an all-inclusive 5-star resort in Cancun or in a budget hostel somewhere else. Always insist on bottled water. 

You should also make sure that the food you’re eating is prepared using filtered water, and the same goes for the ice cubes you use.

You can also bring your water bottle and refill it in your hotel or many restaurants that offer this service.

Click on one of the below water bottles to purchase your favorite one ⤵️

Arcs in Puerto Vallarta near the beach.
Puerto Vallarta

3. Wash and sanitize your hands

Did you know that we touch our faces anywhere from 15 to 23 times an hour?

As such, one of the most important precautions you can take is to keep your hands clean.

With numerous activities and public spaces to explore, it’s important to stay on top of your hand hygiene. 

Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, before eating, and after touching public surfaces. 

If soap and water are not readily available, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can also be effective.

Make sure to carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you at all times.

4. Stay cool and hydrated

Mexico’s warm climate is one of the biggest reasons tourists flock to the country.

But, combined with the humidity and the intense sunlight, it can also quickly lead to dehydration and heat exhaustion. 

Carrying an insulated water bottle with you can be a convenient and effective way to ensure that you always have access to clean drinking water.

Not only will it help keep you hydrated, but it’s also better for the environment as it reduces the need for single-use plastic water bottles. 

Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially during periods of high heat and physical activity.

Additionally, wearing lightweight and breathable clothing, seeking shade, and taking breaks in air-conditioned areas can also help keep you cool and comfortable. 

5. Take prebiotics

Prebiotics are a type of food ingredient that promotes the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in your gut, helping to maintain a healthy gut microbiome. 

This becomes especially important when traveling to a new country like Mexico, where you may encounter new and different types of food and drinks that can disrupt your gut health.

Taking prebiotics can help support the growth of good bacteria and reduce the risk of digestive issues, such as Montezuma’s Revenge (also known as traveler’s diarrhea).

You can find plenty of prebiotic supplements in the form of powders or capsules. But please do remember that I’m not a doctor; this is just a general suggestion.

It’s always best to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new dietary supplement, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking medication.

Isla Mujeres Playa Norte
Isla Mujeres

Why Do People Get Sick in Mexico

👉🏽 What is Traveler’s Diarrhea (TD) or Montezuma’s Revenge?

Montezuma’s Revenge is a term used to describe traveler’s diarrhea (TD) experienced by travelers visiting Mexico.

It is caused by consuming contaminated food or water and is more common in developing countries where water treatment and food preparation may not be as regulated. 

The most common culprit of TD is E. coli; but travelers can also encounter Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella, or Shigella, in contaminated food or water.

Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.

To reduce the risk of TD, it is important to eat well-cooked food, avoid raw or undercooked food, drink purified water, and wash your hands regularly.

👉🏽 Food Poisoning

📝 What is the most common food poisoning in Mexico?

The most common type of food poisoning in Mexico is traveler’s diarrhea (TD), also known as Montezuma’s Revenge.

To reduce the risk of TD, it is important to take precautions when eating and drinking.

Other types of food poisoning can occur in Mexico as well, such as norovirus, salmonella, and E. coli.

📝 What food should you avoid to not get sick?

To avoid getting sick from Mexican food, it is recommended to avoid certain types of food that have a higher risk of contamination. Some of these include:

👎🏼 Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, and seafood.

👎🏼 Raw fruits and vegetables that can’t be peeled.

👎🏼 Dairy products that are not pasteurized.

👎🏼 Tap water and ice made from tap water.

👎🏼 Food from street vendors that is not kept at proper temperatures. Hot food should be hot, not warm or lukewarm; cold food should be cold, not merely cool.

👎🏼 Buffet-style restaurants where food may have been left out for long periods of time.

👎🏼 Foods that are not well-cooked or reheated.

It is also important to practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands frequently, especially before eating and after using the bathroom.

By following these recommendations, you can reduce your risk of getting sick from food in Mexico.

A person washing her hands with soap - how not to get sick in Mexico?  Always wash your hands!

👉🏽 Water Sickness

Water sickness in Mexico refers to illness caused by consuming contaminated water.

This can lead to symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps. In essence, water sickness just refers to a traveler’s diarrhea.

📝 Why does the water in Mexico make you sick?

Water in Mexico can make you sick because it may be contaminated with harmful microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa, toxins, and parasites. 

The quality of the water supply can be affected by factors such as poor treatment, inadequate storage, and the release of pollutants into the water. 

Additionally, water sources in some areas of Mexico may be naturally contaminated with chemicals and minerals.

To reduce the risk of water-borne illness, it is important to only drink bottled water and to avoid consuming raw fruits and vegetables that may have been washed in contaminated water.

👉🏽 Heat Stroke and Severe Dehydration

Heat stroke and severe dehydration can be serious health issues for travelers in Mexico, especially during the hot and dry summer months. 

When the body is unable to regulate its temperature due to excessive heat exposure, it can lead to heat stroke, a condition in which the body’s internal temperature rises to dangerous levels.

Symptoms of heatstroke include headache, dizziness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, and confusion. 

Severe dehydration occurs when the body loses excessive fluid, which can also lead to heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and other heat-related illnesses. 

To prevent heat stroke and dehydration, it is important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, wearing light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and seeking shade when possible.

Additionally, it is important to avoid strenuous physical activity during the hottest parts of the day and to monitor your fluid intake and symptoms carefully.

Playa Delfines shore on a sunny day.
Playa Delfines

📝 In what months is Mexico the hottest?

The country experiences the hottest temperatures between May and October, when the sun is at its strongest and temperatures can soar to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) in some parts of the country, particularly in the northern and coastal regions. 

During this period, the high temperatures combined with high humidity levels can cause heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and severe dehydration.

If you’re visiting during these months, it’s important to pay attention to hydration and take proper precautions against heatstroke.

📝 How to avoid heat exhaustion in Mexico?

Luckily, avoiding heat exhaustion is quite easy. Here are a few tips to follow:

Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water, especially during and after physical activity. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks as they can dehydrate you.

Wear appropriate clothing: Dress in lightweight, light-colored, and breathable clothing. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and use sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun.

Take breaks: Take regular breaks from the sun and avoid being outdoors during the hottest part of the day, typically from 11 am to 3 pm.

Seek shade: Find shade whenever possible, especially during outdoor activities. Use an umbrella or find a shaded area under a tree or a building.

Air conditioning: Stay in air-conditioned environments when possible. Hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers are all good places to cool down.

Monitor your body: Pay attention to your body and its signals. If you feel lightheaded, dizzy, or experience muscle cramps, find a cool place to rest and drink water.

👉🏽 Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning refers to the harmful effects of consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time.

This can lead to severe consequences, including unconsciousness, respiratory depression, and even death. 

It occurs when the liver is unable to process the high level of alcohol in the bloodstream, leading to the accumulation of toxic substances in the body.

To avoid alcohol poisoning, it is important to drink responsibly and to stay well-hydrated while consuming alcohol.

Aerial view of Cancun, Mexico hotel zone.
Punta Cancun

📝 How to avoid alcohol poisoning in Mexico?

Vacationing is synonymous with having fun. For a lot of people, alcohol is part of having fun.

There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s important to be mindful of the amount of alcohol you’re consuming and to drink responsibly. Here are a few tips that may help:

📌 Hydrate: Drink plenty of water, especially if you’re drinking alcohol, as alcohol can dehydrate the body.

📌 Pace yourself: Sip your drinks slowly and take breaks between drinks.

📌 Know your limits: Know how much alcohol your body can handle and don’t exceed that amount.

📌 Eat before and during drinking: Eating a meal before and while you drink can slow down the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream.

📌 Avoid binge drinking: Binge drinking, or consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time, is extremely dangerous and can lead to alcohol poisoning.

📌 Don’t mix drinks: Mixing different types of alcohol can increase the risk of alcohol poisoning and other health problems.

📌 Know the signs: Be aware of the symptoms of alcohol poisoning, which include confusion, vomiting, seizures, slow or irregular breathing, and unconsciousness. If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, seek medical help immediately.

👉🏽 Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness or high-altitude sickness, is a condition that can occur when people travel to high elevations, such as mountains, where the air pressure and oxygen levels are lower. 

The condition occurs because the body needs time to adjust to the lower levels of oxygen at high elevations, and people who travel too quickly to high elevations may develop altitude sickness.

Symptoms can include headache, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, and fatigue. 

📝 How to deal with high-altitude hazards?

If you’re going to be doing a lot of mountain climbing and suspect that you’ll have to deal with altitude sickness, there are steps you can take to deal with high-altitude hazards. Let’s go over a few of those.

Gradual ascent: Ascending slowly will give your body time to acclimate to the altitude. Avoid rapid ascents as much as possible.

Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to help combat altitude sickness.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine: Alcohol and caffeine can have a dehydrating effect on the body, thus increasing the risk of altitude sickness.

Proper nutrition: Eating a healthy diet with plenty of carbohydrates will give your body the energy it needs at high elevations.

Take breaks: Stop and rest if you feel any symptoms of altitude sickness.

Medication: If you’re susceptible to altitude sickness, there are medicines you can take. You can talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about prescribing you something like Diamox that can help to alleviate symptoms of altitude sickness.

Descend: If symptoms persist or worsen, descend to a lower altitude without delay.

A woman drinking a glass of water in her bedroom.

👉🏽 Insect-Borne Diseases

Insect-borne diseases, as their name implies, are illnesses that are transmitted from insects to humans.

These diseases are caused by pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, or parasites that are present in the insect’s saliva or body.

These pathogens are transmitted to humans when the insect bites or stings them. 

To reduce the risk of insect-borne diseases, it’s recommended to use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, sleep under a mosquito net, and avoid being outside during times when insects are most active.

📝 What are the most common insect-borne diseases in Mexico?

The most common insect-borne diseases in Mexico are dengue, chikungunya, and Zika. The common thread among all of these is that they’re spread by mosquitoes. 

Symptoms can include fever, joint pain, rash, and others.

To protect yourself from these diseases, it is important to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites, such as wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, using insect repellent, and sleeping under a mosquito net.

📝 What is the best insect repellent in Mexico?

Choosing the best insect repellent in Mexico depends on various factors such as your skin type, the type of activity you’ll be doing, and the specific type of insects you’ll be exposed to. 

So, if you are dealing with mosquitoes in Mexico, the most effective repellents contain DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) as the active ingredient.

Other options include picaridin, lemon eucalyptus oil, and IR3535. 

It’s best to do some research and consider the conditions you’ll be facing before deciding on an insect repellent.

Additionally, wearing long sleeves and pants, using screens and nets, and avoiding outdoor activities during peak insect-biting hours can also help reduce the risk of insect-borne diseases.

Colorful banderitas in the Main Square of Puerto Vallarta.
Puerto Vallarta

What to Do When You Get Sick in Mexico?

💊 Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is a critical aspect of recovery when you’re sick.

The hot climate can make sickness more severe and prolong the illness, so it’s essential to drink plenty of water and other hydrating fluids. 

Some recommended fluids include water, clear broths, frozen water or ice pops, and sports drinks (such as Gatorade).

You may also consider coconut water, which is high in electrolytes and potassium, and can help replenish lost fluids.

It’s important to drink small amounts frequently throughout the day, instead of large amounts all at once.

To avoid further upset to your digestive system, avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol, as they can dehydrate you further.

By staying hydrated, you can help your body recover more quickly from your illness and minimize the risk of further complications.

💊 Eat plain food to not upset your stomach

Remember that plain food is your best friend when you’re sick. The last thing you want when you’re sick is to add to it by having an upset stomach.

Plain food includes bland options like white rice, boiled potatoes, and steamed vegetables.

It’s also a good idea to avoid spicy and heavy foods, as well as dairy products since they can be hard to digest.

Stick to clear liquids such as water, broth, and sports drinks to stay hydrated.

It’s important to listen to your body and eat small, frequent meals to help your digestive system recover.

Gradually incorporating bland foods back into your diet can help prevent further nausea and discomfort.

It’s also important to remember that if you have any persistent symptoms or if your condition worsens, seek medical attention to ensure proper care and recovery.

💊 Take prebiotics

Most cases of upset stomachs with travelers to foreign countries occur due to the consumption of new and unfamiliar foods and different water sources.

When traveling to a new place, one’s digestive system may not be accustomed to the local bacteria and parasites, which can lead to a disbalance in the gut bacteria.

Prebiotics can help improve your gut health and promote digestive wellness. Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria. 

Some common prebiotic-rich foods include bananas, onions, garlic, asparagus, and leeks.

But I’m talking more about prebiotics supplements, which are available in the form of powders, liquids, and capsules. 

Before you start a supplement, though, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications.

In addition, make sure to stay hydrated, avoid spicy or heavy foods, and get plenty of rest to help your body recover.

A woman using insect repellent on her arm.

💊 Take proper medication

Whether you go to Mexico or somewhere else, it’s always a good idea to bring over-the-counter remedies for common ailments such as headache, nausea, flu, fever, allergies (if you have any), and digestive issues. 

You should also bring any prescription medications you normally take with you, as they may not be readily available in the country you’re visiting. 

Before starting or taking any new medication, read the label carefully and follow the recommended dosages.

If your symptoms persist or worsen, it’s best to seek medical attention.

A doctor or pharmacist can help you determine the best course of treatment for your specific condition.

Remember to always prioritize your health and well-being while traveling in Mexico.

💊 Call a doctor

There’s no helping it at the end of the day, you might get sick even if you take all the precautions in the world.

At times like this, it is important to seek medical attention promptly. 

Call a doctor to ensure that you receive the proper diagnosis and treatment.

A doctor can advise you on the best course of action, taking into consideration the specific symptoms you are experiencing and your overall health status.

Doctors can also provide you with the necessary medication and offer tips on how to manage your symptoms while you are in the country. 

Do not self-diagnose or treat yourself, as this may worsen your condition and delay proper treatment.

Your health is your top priority, so please don’t take any chances with it.

While we’re on the topic, I also highly recommend getting travel insurance before you visit any country.

Healthcare costs in Mexico can get quite expensive if you don’t have coverage.

Having insurance can help protect you against unexpected medical expenses and provide peace of mind during your trip. Insurance provider recommendation here?

Frequently Asked Questions on How to Avoid Getting Sick in Mexico

Can you drink water in Mexico?

No. You shouldn’t drink tap water while you’re visiting the country.

Even most Mexicans avoid drinking tap water and don’t even make ice cubes from it, so that should tell you how bad it can be.

Can I brush my teeth with tap water in Mexico?

I don’t recommend that either.

If you need to rinse your mouth before/after brushing, or you need to rinse the brush, please stick to bottled water.

Chichen Itza El Castillo
Chichen Itza

Are drinks with ice safe in Mexico?

Generally speaking, yes.

As I’ve mentioned above, the locals in Mexico don’t even make ice cubes from tap water

They use bottled water for that purpose, so any drinks with ice should be safe.

That being said, you should always inquire how the restaurant/café/hotel/etc. makes its ice, just to be extra safe.

Is it safe to eat salad in Mexico?

Whether a salad is safe to consume largely depends on the source of the ingredients and how well they have been washed and handled. 

In some areas, the water used to wash the vegetables may not be safe to drink, which can increase the risk of foodborne illness.

If you’re concerned about the quality of the food in Mexico, it’s best to choose places to eat that have a reputation for serving high-quality, well-prepared meals, and to avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables that may have been washed in tap water.

Does that mean street food stalls are excluded? Definitely not.

Street food places that are very busy are generally quite safe; the locals know which places to avoid.

Other signs you can look for are the availability and usage of hand sanitizer by the employees, wearing hair nets, separate people handling cash and cooking food, etc.

Another good sign is if you see a lot of cab drivers visiting the place.

Since their job basically necessitates eating out, they know the best places to avoid an upset stomach.

Aerial view of Mexico City - how not to get sick in Mexico? Find out how!
Mexico City

How can I protect my stomach in Mexico?

Here are a few tips that will come in handy while you’re in Mexico:

✓ Drink bottled water only, and avoid ice in drinks.

✓ Stick to well-cooked, hot foods and avoid raw or undercooked meats, fish, and vegetables.

✓ Hot food should be hot, not warm. Similarly, cold food should be cold, not merely cool.

✓ Eat at busy, well-established street food stalls or restaurants, where food is being prepared and turned over quickly.

✓ Wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer before eating.

✓ Take a prebiotic supplement, which helps to maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria.

✓ Start gradually with local cuisine, allowing your body to get used to new flavors and spices.

Will I get travelers’ diarrhea in Mexico?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to say with certainty whether you will or will not get travelers’ diarrhea in Mexico.

While it is a common concern for travelers, it’s helpful to remember that many people visit Mexico without experiencing any gastrointestinal issues. 

To reduce your risk, it’s important to practice good food and water safety habits as I’ve mentioned before.

It’s also a good idea to take basic precautions such as frequently washing your hands frequently and carrying hand sanitizer.

If you do experience symptoms of travelers’ diarrhea, seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

A woman selling fruits in Mexico.

Conclusion: How Not to Get Sick in Mexico

While the risk of getting sick in a country is never zero, following the precautions I’ve mentioned in this article above should reduce it to a minimum.

To recap, avoid consuming tap water, be cautious of food and drinks, don’t avoid street food altogether, and stay hydrated.

An upset stomach will not be the only sickness tourists contend with in Mexico.

Heat exhaustion is also one of the most common conditions.

Stay hydrated, wear light clothing, also wear a hat if possible, and avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day.

If you’re going to be doing a lot of mountain climbing or hiking in high-altitude areas, it is important to acclimate slowly and to drink plenty of water to prevent altitude sickness.

Lastly, be aware of insect-borne diseases and remember to carry and use insect repellants.

By following these simple precautions, you’ll make sure that your next trip to Mexico is filled with nothing but fun. So pack your bags, and enjoy a healthy and enjoyable trip!