Traveling is an exciting and enriching experience, but it can also be stressful for the body. With all the new environments and unfamiliar foods, getting sick is easy. However, you can take steps to reduce your risk of getting sick while traveling.
To avoid getting sick, stay hydrated and eat healthy food. Apart from that, keep your hands clean and be mindful of what you touch. When eating out, choose foods that have been freshly cooked. Ensure you get appropriate vaccinations and medicines in advance if traveling to a region that requires them.
This is a highlight of some preventive measures you can take. Let’s first look at the causes before we get into details on how to avoid them.
Causes of Sickness When Travelling
Food & Water Contamination
Food and water contamination is the most common cause of getting sick when traveling. Unclean water can expose you to water-borne illnesses such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Shigella. If you eat contaminated food or drink unclean water, you are likely to come into contact with the pathogens.
Constant Exposure to Germs
Traveling to different parts of the world exposes you to a wider range of germs that your body is not used to. This can make you more likely to get sick, especially if you are not taking the necessary precautions to avoid contact with germs.
Weakened Immune System
Another cause of sickness when traveling is a weakened immune system. When you are stressed, sleep-deprived, or not eating well, your immune system can become compromised, making you more susceptible to illness. Travelling can often be stressful as you deal with unfamiliar surroundings, language barriers, and jetlag. This can make it more difficult for your body to fight off illness.
The Covid-19 pandemic made traveling even more stressful. You have to deal with new rules, regulations, and concerns about contracting the virus. This added stress can weaken the immune system and make you more susceptible to sickness.
Difference in Climate & Altitude
Changes in climate and altitude can also cause travel-related illnesses. Exposure to a new environment affects your body as it adjusts to new conditions.
For example, if you travel to a high-altitude destination, you may be at risk of altitude sickness, which can cause symptoms such as headache, nausea, and dizziness. Similarly, if you travel to a hot and humid destination, you may be at risk of heat stroke, which can be dangerous if left untreated.
How Not to Get Sick When Travelling
To avoid getting sick when traveling, there are a few steps you can take. Here are some tips to help you stay healthy on your trip:
1. Take Care of Yourself Before You Leave
The best way to avoid getting sick when traveling is to ensure your body is healthy before you leave. Make sure to get enough sleep and exercise, drink plenty of water, and eat a balanced diet to boost your immune system.
You should get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night in the week leading up to your trip and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
If you are going on an international trip, it’s also important to ensure you have the necessary vaccinations and medications. Talk to your doctor about the recommended vaccines for your destination so you can prepare properly before leaving.
2. Wash Your Hands Regularly
Washing your hands regularly is important to reduce your risk of getting sick when traveling. Even if you can’t access a sink or running water, carry hand sanitizer with you and use it often.
If possible, avoid touching public surfaces and objects such as door handles, railings, and ATM machines. If you have to touch them, wash your hands afterward.
You should also wash your hands before and after eating, especially if you are eating at restaurants or food stalls. After visiting the restroom, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and avoid touching your face.
3. Be Mindful of What You Eat and Drink
The temptation to explore local cuisine when traveling can be strong, but it’s important to be mindful of what you eat and drink. Having bottled water with you is the safest way to ensure that you are drinking clean water.
Avoid drinking tap water unless you know it is safe to do so. When eating at restaurants and food stalls, ensure the food is fresh and cooked thoroughly before consuming it. Avoid raw or undercooked foods such as sushi and oysters.
You can also minimize your risk of getting sick when traveling by drinking alcohol in moderation. Alcohol can weaken the immune system and put you at a higher risk of getting sick.
4. Take the Necessary Vaccines and Medications
If you are like me, jabs and medicine are the last things you want to worry about before a vacation. But taking the necessary vaccines and medications can help reduce your risk of getting sick when traveling.
Check with your doctor before leaving to ensure you are up-to-date with routine vaccinations such as MMR, polio, and Tdap. You should also talk to your doctor about recommended vaccinations for your destination.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition, discuss it with your doctor and ask about any necessary medications you should take while traveling.
5. Avoid Close Contact with Sick People
Although it is impossible to completely avoid sick people when traveling, you can minimize your risk of getting sick by avoiding close contact with them.
Avoid sharing items such as cups and utensils with anyone who is ill, and keep a healthy distance from anyone who appears to be unwell.
It’s also important to practice good hygiene. Avoid touching your face and coughing or sneezing into your hand. Ensure you dispose used tissues properly and wash your hands regularly.
6. Get Enough Rest
The desire to pack as much into your vacation can be tempting, but getting enough rest while traveling is important.
Fatigue can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to illnesses. Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule and don’t stay up too late or disrupt your body’s natural rhythms by sleeping during the day.
If you’re feeling overly tired when traveling, take a break and rest. There’s nothing wrong with taking a day to relax and recharge during your vacation.
7. Use Insect Repellents Where Necessary
Insect-borne diseases are a major concern when traveling to different parts of the world. To reduce your risk of getting sick, use insect repellents that contain DEET or other EPA-approved ingredients.
You should also wear long sleeves and pants if possible and avoid sleeping outside unless necessary. Check for standing water around your accommodation and ensure you have a mosquito net or some type of barrier to prevent insect bites.
Following these tips can help reduce the risk of getting sick when traveling and ensure you have a safe and enjoyable vacation. But remember that if you feel unwell during your trip, you should seek medical attention immediately. Be sure to have travel insurance coverage to access the necessary medical care.