When you’ve spent possibly the best part of a year planning your traveling adventures the last thing you want is to spend the entire time holed up in your hotel room, battling a terrible sickness bug and wishing you’d never left home. It sounds dramatic, but a huge number of backpackers and holidaymakers have their dream adventures canceled or cut short due to falling ill or experiencing an accident whilst they’re abroad. Getting sick is a part of everyday life and long-term travel and constantly experiencing new environments make you even more vulnerable to getting sick. The key to minimize the chances of this happening is to prevent it. Prevention is better than any cure and in this article, we’ll share some useful tips on how to stay healthy while traveling.
First things first; don’t forget about travel insurance
One thing all travelers should invest in is travel insurance and there’s never a one-size-fits-them-all solution but the key is to stay informed. To understand what’s the best travel insurance provider for your upcoming trip, the best thing you can do is stay informed about the diseases travelers encounter while there.
Knowing this, it’s easier to choose an insurance policy that will have you covered for every and any eventuality you might experience, meaning that you can enjoy your holiday fully, safe in the knowledge that if you do fall ill, you’ll have access to the best medical care possible.
Keeping yourself hydrated is an absolute must when you’re traveling, especially when you’re flying. The stale plane air is enough to make anyone feel ill, so getting your travels off to a healthy start means drinking plenty whilst in the air and throughout the rest of your travels. You can also boost your water intake by enjoying fruits and salads. Although be wary of salad that has been washed in local water!
Always wash your hands
We’re all familiar with the act of regular hand washing, but when traveling this isn’t always possible. You’ll encounter a lot of germy tray tables on the plane, bacteria coated handles at your hostel, grimy cash, less than sanitary toilets and even dirty ATM keypads. Make sure you’re washing your hands before you eat and after handling cash or when that’s not possible, make sure you have a pocket-size hand sanitizer with you.
Say no to ice
If you’re already suspicious or concerned about the water quality at your destination, then you should also exercise caution when it comes to having ice. Despite the water being frozen, bacteria will still be present, so it’s simply not worth the risk. If you’re offered ice, politely refuse and opt to drink bottled drinks instead.
Be wary of cans
The amount of bacteria and germs that can live and fester on the top of cans that you proceed to touch with your mouth is staggering. Avoid cans if possible, if your options are limited then clean up the can as much as you can before drinking
Make sure you relax and get enough rest
There’s no getting away from the fact that traveling means long, busy days that are full of activity and nights that are just as hectic! With this in mind, it’s important that you take some time to rest and relax as much as possible. Just like at home, when we burn the candle at both ends we tend to feel burnt out, sluggish and utterly exhausted which in turn, makes us susceptible to illness. Changing time zones and experiencing different climates and living conditions can take a toll on your body and if you want to avoid getting sick while traveling, make sure you’re giving yourself enough rest.
Make time to exercise
Exercising always helps to toughen up your body when adjusting to a new environment. What I personally do is exercising early in the morning right after waking up. During the day, you probably have a lot of activities and when you get back to your hotel room, you’ll probably be too tired. However, the best-case scenario is to combine your activities with working out. One great way to do this is by hiking or trekking or at least walking everywhere you go. That’s one great way to stay fit while also getting to know the city you’re traveling to.
Make your own meals
You probably don’t travel miles away from home just to eat your own cooking but if you’re traveling for a longer period of time, this is definitely something you should consider. More often than not, eating out too frequently isn’t too good for your stomach. Instead, consider eating more fresh fruits and vegetables or try to prepare a popular local dish by yourself; you can find a lot of recipes online.
Never eat until 100% full
I know that when traveling abroad, you might fall in love with the local food, but you should practice self-control when trying new food. This is one of the best tips on how to stay healthy while traveling. The Japanese have this concept Hara Hachi Bu which means to eat only until you’re 80% full. This means your stomach won’t take extra energy to digest all the food you ate and you’ll have enough strength to proceed with your long day of exploring your new destination. Split your diet into more meals throughout the day but make sure none of those meals makes you completely full. Try it, you’ll thank me later.
Protect the skin
Never forget about the climate of the region you’re visiting and prepare accordingly. Moisturize frequently, apply sunscreen when necessary, and stay hydrated.
Dealing with food allergies in a foreign land
One can never be too careful when it comes to food allergies but this can be challenging when communicating with people whose language you don’t understand. But don’t despair; there is a solution to this. In situations like these, get a food allergy card that indicates your allergies in both, English and the local language before you go. Another thing you can do is consulting with your hotel before choosing where to eat. More often than not, they’ll know several good restaurants that always cater to people with food allergies.
Avoid mosquito bites
There’s nothing that can ruin a vacation quite like a disease you get as a consequence of a mosquito bite. During my first trip to India, I got dengue fever after being bitten by a mosquito and it was a very unpleasant experience. To avoid this, the first thing you can do is learn about the place you’re visiting and the mosquito-transferring diseases that are present in that region. A couple of good starting points are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization.
A couple of things you can do when traveling to a high-risk area are:
- Staying in air-conditioned rooms
- Using anti-mosquito devices
- Getting a mosquito repellent or anti-mosquito bracelets
- Use permethrin-coated net when necessary
If you know you have a long flight ahead, prepare your body timely. Start eating healthy a couple of weeks before your trip to give your immunity a boost. Get at least 8 hours of sleep a few days in a row before your flight, stay hydrated, and try to work out as much as possible. All this can help you give your body the boost it needs to endure a long flight to a distant country.
If you want to keep your body, mind, and spirit finely tuned, there isn’t anything better than yoga. Yoga can help ease the difficulties that come with long-term travel, including sleeping problems, circulation problems, and even psychological difficulties. And with so many hotels and hostels offering free yoga classes for their guests, it’s a shame not to try it at least once in a blue moon.
Practice safe sex
Sexually transmitted diseases are not a joke. In some parts of the world, they are more present than others, but despite your destination, you should always practice safe sex. With that being said, in the next section, we’ll share some useful tips on how to avoid falling ill while traveling on a flight.
The first thing I’ll recommend you is to get a nasal mist. As you probably know, the air on planes is extremely dry because of the recirculated air system. This means that your nose will get dry too and this is never a good thing. The human respiratory system always works better with a bit of moisture that helps to catch all the germs swirling around. The nasal mist can artificially provide this for your nose while you’re on the flight and help you avoid catching the common airplane cold.
The next thing you’ll want to do on a flight (or any long car/bus/train journey) is to stretch your legs from time to time. Sitting in one position for too long increases the risk of blood clots and cause backache.
Another thing you want to avoid on a flight is drinking alcohol. I know the thought of relaxing with a glass of wine/whiskey sounds tempting but this can lead to dehydration and leave you more vulnerable to getting sick.
Finally, it’s probably a good idea to pack a few healthy snacks for your flight, drink a lot of liquids throughout the flight, and increase your vitamin C intake.
Always consult with your doctor before traveling somewhere far away. You might have to take vaccinations or some kind of preventive tablets. Sometimes they’ll be expensive, but certainly worth having. Furthermore, also read about the common diseases’ symptoms, despite consulting with the doctor. Some diseases, such as malaria, might feel like the regular flu but if you don’t act quickly, it might end up ruining your whole trip.
Listen to other travelers
You can get the best advice from people who traveled a lot and have a lot of experience with getting sick while traveling and know how to stay healthy while traveling. Listen to their stories and learn from their mistakes!
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