Going on a vacation and applying for a leave can be a tedious thing to do, and getting sick while traveling can be an incredibly frustrating experience for anyone. No one wants to lose precious vacation time to an illness – no matter how mild or bad it may be. Travelers usually complain of gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. The rest will complain of respiratory problems such as colds, flu, and cough.
It is a big travel issue on how to not get sick when traveling. There are so many points in a trip where you can get sick: even before you go, while on the plane, and while on the vacation itself. It often leads you to thinking: how do you not get sick when traveling?
Taking necessary precautions and safety measures such as immunization, good hygiene, and safe practices will help you not get sick when traveling. Getting immunized, wearing a face mask, using hand sanitizer, and avoiding tap water are obvious ways to not get sick when traveling. However, there are more ways to protect yourself from being sick when traveling.
No matter where you are headed in the world, illness can take you down no matter what. It is not even dependent on how clean your destination will be, but rather on the practices and activities that you do. Pathogens are everywhere and only waiting for a compromised host that they can invade and make sick.
If you do not want to get sick when traveling, the best defense is prevention. In this article, we discuss several ways how you get sick when travelling and provide you with tips to not get sick when traveling.
- BEFORE TRAVELING
- WHILE TRAVELING
- FOOD AND BEVERAGE
- WHEN YOU’RE BACK
1. Catch up on recommended vaccinations
Before you hop on that plane, check online to see if there are vaccinations that are recommended in the country to which you’re traveling. If yes, make sure to complete your immunization schedule prior to traveling, just to make sure you do not catch any disease. Researching on recommended vaccines is a quick thing to do. There are plenty of vaccine-preventable diseases travelers can contract from specific regions, so reading up and complying with vaccinations is of importance.
When traveling to cool climate areas, you might want to get a flu vaccine weeks prior your trip so you do not get sick when traveling. You do not want to spend your trip sneezing and wiping your runny nose. Some countries in Africa and South America recommend tourists to get vaccines against yellow fever before reaching the destination.
There are many vaccine-preventable diseases and it surely is not a problem to take time and get your shots before you travel so that you do not get sick when traveling.
2. Research on health risks in your destination
The Center for Disease Control and prevention is a great site to harvest information regarding a region or country’s health risks and possible problems you might encounter.
For example, if you are traveling to a tropical area where you are at increased risk for getting malaria, you might be prescribed by your healthcare profession preventative medications, or prophylactic medicine. As a precaution, do not forget to lather on some mosquito repellant so that you will not get sick when traveling to tropical areas or places swarming with mosquitoes.
3. Take your vitamins
Want to make it hard for pathogens to invade your body? Boosting your health with vitamins and minerals would be a good idea to do if you have plans of traveling to foreign countries. One vitamin famous for its immune-boosting properties is Vitamin C. Daily intake of Vitamin C can help prevent many viral infections, such as the colds and flu.
Taking probiotics can help fend off pathogenic bacteria you can get from foreign food and water. This keeps your gastrointestinal system strong by encouraging it to fight infection by increasing the good bacteria in your gut.
4. Remember to pack your medications
If you are the person with prescription or maintenance medications, you might want to bring them along on your trip. You will never know when hypertension, asthma, or pain will strike.
Get your essentials: any medications you regularly use, your allergy medicines, nasal sprays, inhalers, and anything else you think you might need on your trip.
One of the best ways to not get sick when traveling is to prepare your medications and in any case that something bad happens to you.
5. Eat well before you leave
Keep your body in top shape by eating and sleeping well even before your trip. If you want to avoid getting sick while traveling, exchange takeout for healthier meals at home.
6. Reschedule if you are too sick
If you have recently been admitted to the hospital, have a bad case of fever, or have a n injury, you might want to think before hopping onto that plane. These can be symptoms of a serious illness. If you are too sick to travel, do not force yourself and take a rest first. You can always take that trip some other time and your health is always of utmost importance.
7. Be careful of what you touch on the plane
Airplanes are filthy vehicles – imagine the number of people you have shared your seat with and the amount of bacteria passing through those surfaces each day. It is not a secret that they do not get to be thoroughly cleaned everyday – the deboarding and reboarding time is so short there is not much time to clean the whole aircraft.
Wiping down your seat and nearby surfaces with antibacterial wipes might be overboard to some people, but it will not hurt to be vigilant about germs and bacteria.
8. Avoid activities that will make you motion sick
Plane rides can range anywhere from one to several hours, and you can easily get bored on the plane. However, try to minimize activities that will make you motion sick, such as frequent standing and playing on your mobile phone. These activities can often make you dizzy, nauseous, or even induce vomiting. You haven’t even reached your destination yet and you are already sick. Avoid them so that you do not get sick when traveling.
FOOD AND BEVERAGE
Now that you have landed in your destination, there is no better way to immerse in the culture and get to know the place than by tasting its local cuisine. A big part of your travel would probably be spent trying out different kinds of dishes, drinks, and dessert.
However, put in mind that your stomach is accustomed to food and water from your home place and your stomach may react when there is a sudden change in composition of your diet. Introduce food and drinks slowly and try not to alter your diet radically to avoid an upset stomach.
Always be wary of where your food and water comes from to avoid unnecessary trips to the comfort room.
9. Know where your water comes from
Most of us are accustomed to drinking either purified, distilled, or mineral water. We get these from our water dispensers at home. Each country has different water sources – some have well processed and purified water, while some regions get water directly from a spring or well. Locals often drink tap water and are perfectly fine. For tourists however, a new water source can often upset sensitive stomachs. Not all countries will have efficient water purifying systems, some bacteria not normal to one’s gut may upset it and lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and even fever. We drink plenty of water daily and it might be difficult to always keep in mind where we get our water.
Your gentle stomach, that is used to your own local foods and water, can be the target of food poisoning, hence, always be careful of drinking tap water. A solution would be to purchased bottled water or better yet, bring your own container with water from a known source.
10. Skip the ice
If you are traveling to a region where water quality is questionable or a concern, order your drinks without ice. Ice from restaurants is typically made from tap water, so you might want skip the ice too. Even after freezing, much of the bacteria and other contaminants in the water, including heavy metals, will still remain.
11. Avoid eating food washed in tap water
If you eat food that was rinsed or washed in tap water, you are also vulnerable to ingesting the bacteria as if you drank the water yourself. This is particularly true when eating raw food rinsed directly in tap water, such as raw fish, vegetables like lettuce and onions, and even for fruits. However, the amount of water ingested would not be as much as drinking it, so the risk is much lower than drinking water directly.
Remember to eat only food that has been cooked well and is served hot, or something that you have washed and peeled yourself so that you do not get sick when traveling.
12. Make tap water safer to drink
Purchasing a bottled water every time you get thirsty can be expensive, and not to mention, harmful to the environment. You decrease the bacterial load in tap water by boiling it for at least one minute. This should be enough to disinfect your tap water, and decrease the likelihood of it upsetting your stomach.
13. Tone down on the caffeine
You will not be working long hours and waking up very early when you are on a vacation, so accustom yourself to taking less coffee as you normally due. Keep your caffeine consumption low to avoid problems such as an upset stomach. Other than that, coffee can also cause dehydration to some people. Excessive coffee drinking can keep you awake at wee hours of the night, losing precious hours of sleep.
14. Hold on the booze
What’s a vacation without a little alcohol to calm the nerves and enjoy the night? However, big amount of alcohol does not only dehydrate the body, but also drains your energy. Getting hung over the next day makes you less productive and more prone to getting sick. Alcohol can weaken the immune system, making us susceptible to disease-causing pathogens.
The next time you go out for dinner and drinks, have your alcohol in moderation. This maintains the immune system’s integrity, thus helping you not get sick when traveling.
15. Keep yourself well-hydrated
Speaking of dehydration, it happens even without alcohol intake. Not drinking enough water can also leads to dehydration. You should make sure you drink adequate amounts of water especially when you are traveling to hot and humid countries in the world, where your risk of getting dehydrated is increased.
Signs of dehydration include headache, thirst, fatigue, and dizziness. These are easily avoidable when you drink as much water as you can. Increase your intake of fruits with high water content such as melons and oranges, and keep yourself cool whenever possible to avoid water losses.
16. Eat the right kinds of food
Food is an essential in life, and even when traveling it can determine if you will or will not get sick when traveling. Anything that is excessive of sugar, salt or fat can trigger an upset stomach. Excessively salty food can dehydrate you and keep you thirsty. Fatty food can give you a heavy and greasy feeling in your stomach and can cause abdominal pain. Keep everything in moderation to avoid further problems.
Try to keep a well-balanced diet even when away from home. Consume more fruits and vegetables that are easier for the body to digest to avoid constipation problems. Eat high protein, high fiber, low carbohydrate meals, which can be easily digested by your body. Eat the right types of foods and minimize your intake of junk and unhealthy food.
The immune system is naturally depressed when you do a lot of traveling because of exhaustion, changing diets and routines, and exposure to other travelers in enclosed spaces.
The best way to stay healthy when traveling is to start healthy. A person’s health before traveling often reflects how his or her health will be too when he or she goes away to travel. A healthy immune system is the first defense to not getting sick when travelling.
17. Get a lot of sleep
Coupled with adequate water intake, sleep will be your second most effective weapon to not get sick while traveling. A drastic change in your sleep-wake cycle can cause a lot of stress to your body and can weaken your immune system.
Even when you have a limited number of days to visit and explore your destination, do not limit the number of hours you spend on sleep. Studies have shown a correlation between sleep deprivation and immune suppression, putting you at risk for being sick. You might end up losing more precious vacation time when you get sick because you did not catch a long, good sleep.
While getting more than eight hours of uninterrupted sleep might not be possible every day of your trip, get a long, comfortable sleep whenever you can. It is a top priority to prevent getting down from an illness and should be planned into your daily itinerary.
18. Protect yourself from the sun
Although the sun gives us ample doses of Vitamin D, prolonged exposure in the sun can result in skin manifestations, ranging from pruritus to sunburn. Excessive sun exposure can also bring about heatstroke, often coupled with dehydration. To avoid any of these, pack a sunblock with good UV ray blockage and sufficient coverage. While you are at it, add a cute wide-brimmed hat for extra protection.
19. Don’t let stress get to you
Planning a trip is stressful. Packing and planning your outfits is stressful. Changing from one vehicle to another is stressful. Checking in to the hotel and unpacking is stressful. No matter what part of your trip, stressful events can happen and get on your nerves.
Stress does no good for anybody. Stress from any reason increases a person’s susceptibility to illness, probably by the way it alters the body’s reaction to stress. So, even when your itinerary is not followed down to the minute, you get left by the tourist bus, or get bad sunburn, do not let stress get to you. You might end up wasting away your vacation by stressing too much on small things.
20. Exercise when you land
Exercise not only keeps your body fit and toned to look appealing, it plays a far bigger role by keeping you fit enough to fend off illness. Regular exercise, even for at least 30 minutes a day, has been shown as a great tool to augmenting your health and wellness.
Even while on a trip, try to be as active as possible to maintain good blood circulation, and a normal weight. Regular exercise is one of the mainstays of healthy living. It improves blood flow, controls weight, prevents obesity, and boosts the immune system. Just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to general good health and a healthy immune system.
Skipping out on exercise can increase one’s risk of fatigue and illness when travelling. Research has even found that exercise can reduce the likelihood of one acquiring respiratory tract infections and shorten their duration.
Even your accommodation does not have a full gym set-up, there are other forms of exercise you can partake in when travelling, such as: walking, biking, hiking, and swimming. When on a vacation, do not skimp, and instead, include exercise in your itinerary so that you do not get sick when traveling.
21. Avoid smoking
Nothing good ever came out from smoking a cigarette. A well known long term effect of smoking is lung cancer. But even while on a short term trip, smoking puts you at risk for developing respiratory tract infections such as sinusitis and cough. Avoiding smoking is not only beneficial to you, but to other travelers and people who are around you.
22. Again, hydrate
Our bodies are made up of 70% of water, and not getting enough of it will harm our bodies. Hydration is specifically important when we are tired and exhausted after doing so many activities. Dehydration makes our body more susceptible to viruses and bacteria, so it is mandatory to keep yourself well-hydrated all the time so you will not get sick when traveling. Remember to chug down at least 8 glasses of water daily, or roughly about 2 liters. Remember this though: drinks like alcohol and coffee do not count as part of your hydration regimen! Rather, they do the opposite and can dehydrate the body even more.
23. Wash your hands
Washing your hands, palms, and fingers, limits transmission of bacteria from filthy surfaces we touch to our bodies. We often become vectors of germs and our hands are one of the most commonly involved body surfaces. When we touch dirty surfaces, we unknowingly use our hands to eat, or accidentally wipe it on our faces, both which can lead to illness.
24. Have a hand sanitizer or alcohol in your bag
In instances where soap and water are not readily available, make sure you always have sanitizer or alcohol with you. These solutions can effectively kill 99.9% of microbes when used generously. Lack of water source is not an excuse to not wash your hands, you can always disinfect with the there alternatives.
25. Bring mosquito netting
If you’re traveling to a region with prevalence of mosquito-borne illness, such as the tropics, make sure you pack mosquito netting and repellent too. This helps you reduce the risk of contracting any illness, but also provides an extra layer so mosquitoes cannot easily bite you.
With the use of mosquito netting, these pests will not easily be able to bite you and cause local inflammation, erythema, swelling, and pruritus of your skin.
26. Wear a mask
It might not be the best fashion accessory, but wearing a face mask can protect you from acquiring any illnesses, especially those transmitted by the respiratory route. Airborne viruses and bacteria can cause illness anywhere from colds, cough, fever, and even rashes.
Wearing a mask provides a barrier between you and pathogens harbored by other people, decreasing your risk to get sick when traveling. Mask-wearing is highly accepted worldwide and should not be something to be ashamed of. You would be more ashamed if you keep on coughing because you got sick for not wearing a mask.
27. Make a relaxed travel schedule
We understand that your boss has only allowed you a week for vacation, and you have to get back in the office right after. However, this does not mean you should jam pack each day with exhausting activities.
Do not attempt to see all sights in one day – you can end up with muscle fatigue and exhaustion. You are likely to get sick when you try to force yourself to roam around beyond your body’s capacity. Pause, slow down, and revise your itinerary in a way that it does not get too complicated or exhausting. Remember not too abuse your body, it can only handle a definite amount of exhaustion and stress – you do not want to be overbearing to your body.
28. Do not swim in dirty water
Not all bodies of water are clean and safe to swim in. Dirty rivers, contaminated lakes, and unclean seas harbor pathogens that can enter our bodies when we swim in these waters.
Before you step foot into a body of water, check for obvious signs: is there moss overgrowth around the area, is the water clear and not murky, are there no animal or human feces around? If you answered yes to any of these, then that area might not be safe for swimming.
29. Limit extreme sports
No one wants to go home with a broken nose, leg, or arm. If you decide to try out extreme activities such as bungee jumping, rappelling, and diving when you travel, make sure your safety gear are intact and working and avoid contact with others to prevent being hit.
WHEN YOU’RE BACK
Now that you have rested and savored every moment of your travel, it is finally time to fly back home. You would think that you possibly cannot get any illness now that you are headed home, that is where you are wrong.
Even towards the last leg of your trip, you should still watch out for any factors so that you will not get sick when traveling. Here are a few reminders to continue being a healthy traveler:
30. Check for any symptoms
Did you feel any abdominal pain a few days back? Is your head hurting and are you feeling feverish? These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself to detect any disease at the end of your trip. Fever and nausea are common symptoms after exhaustion and fatigue, but typically should not last for several days. They usually dissipate once the body has fully recovered with rest. If you think you might have eaten something bad before going home, check for vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms are indicative of an ongoing disease and you should seek medical help at once.
31. Get plenty of rest
You have just worn out yourself for the duration of your trip and put stress on your body, and now it is time to get some rest. Travelers often resume work or school immediately after vacationing, but at least a day or two shall be allotted for full recuperation after several days of holiday.
Get some time to relax a little before you resume your responsibilities so that your immune system can get back on track and help you fight the exhaustion.
When going on a vacation, the ultimate goal is to see and experience beautiful places and activities as much as you can. However, you cannot do that if you come down with an illness. Hence, you should start thinking of the ways how to not get sick when traveling.
There are plenty of points in a trip where you can get sick: even before you go, while on the plane, and while on vacation itself. As we have discussed above, your activities and practices determine whether or not you will be sick for the duration of your trip. Disease is best avoided by prevention, so ensure you are in optimum health even before you go to travel.
Precautions such as hand washing, using sanitizers, choosing your food and beverage wisely, and not abusing your body are some simple ways to not get sick when traveling.
No matter where you go, how long you stay, or what you do, disease is just around the corner waiting for the next victim. It will not hurt to take necessary precautions to guard our health before, during, and most importantly after our travel is over.