You’re on a trip of a lifetime, having a blast. You’re seeing phenomenal sites, experiencing amazing things, and chowing down on every delicious thing in sight.
Suddenly, your stomach starts to feel a little funny, your head starts to be a little achy, or your nose starts to be a little stuffy.
Then BOOM: full-fledged illness takes over and next thing you know, you’re confined to your hotel room! Crap.
As you wallow in your misery, you start to wonder how you could have avoided this mess. Was it the shady street food? Or the salad at the fancy restaurant? Did you stay out in the blazing sun for too long? Or did you forget to include water with all the drinks you had consumed?
While getting sick is not always avoidable, especially when traveling to a new place, there are many ways you can help reduce the risk. Here are ten tips about staying healthy that I always keep in mind when I’m on the road:
Bite the bullet and get your shots
No one likes needles and everyone hates the monetary costs. But still. Always check with your travel doctor what shots or medications you may need on an upcoming trip. Don’t always go for the cheapest option, though, no matter how much your wallet may be hurting. For example, there are several different types of anti-malaria drugs at various price points and some are definitely better than others.
Listen to your Momma and keep your hands clean
This one does not need explaining. Wash your hands! If you absolutely cannot do so, use wet wipes or hand sanitizer. You should also keep your fingernails trimmed – ever thought about what bacterial colonies live under your nails? Keep ‘em short when on the road!
Watch what you eat
Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it! I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. Avoid raw fruits and vegetables that you cannot peel. When eating buffets and street food, ensure the food turnover is quick (i.e., it hasn’t been sitting there for a long time). And as for dairy or egg based foods, ensure they had been properly refrigerated (trust me on this one). Also remember, just because a place is five star rated, it doesn’t mean its employees wash their hands or that an infected fly won’t land on its food.
Watch what you drink
Stay hydrated! If you’re in a place where the local water is suspect, stick to bottled water, bottled drinks, or anything made with boiled water. Do not use ice in your drinks unless you trust the water had been purified. In some places, you should even err to the side of caution and brush your teeth with bottled water! Oh and don’t go overboard with the booze!
Sleeping is good
Sure, it’s tempting to stay out at all hours to see and do as much as possible. But remember, sleep gives you the energy to sightsee. It also makes your brain happy, which in turn makes it alert. And an alert brain is kind of imperative in keeping you safe and helping you to make good decisions!
Pace yourself – you can’t see it all no matter how hard you try. Schedule some time to relax in nature, perhaps. Or linger over a coffee at a café while people watching.
If you’re on a beach holiday, it may be tempting to just lie there as fresh drinks are brought to you every time you flick a finger towards the bar. Please don’t do that, haha. Keep moving! Enjoy the fresh air and sun (vitamin D), go for walks, take a swim, get some exercise! Your body will thank you. Besides, you need to encourage your metabolism to digest your meals so you can go eat the next one!
A tan is nice, heatstroke is not
Especially if you’re going from winter to the tropics or going from low altitude to high, pay attention to how long you’re in the sun. Wear a broad brimmed hat and long loose clothes. Pay attention to your extremities as they are likely to be exposed more often than not – your nose, ears, hands, and feet. Use sunscreen. If you get burned, use aloe products to soothe the skin. Another tip is use coco butter body cream – I find it helps the skin get a nice tan without burning.
Don’t get bitten
The only bite you want is from the travel bug, not actual insects. If you’re heading to the tropics, mosquito repellent with DEET is a good idea. Sure it sucks to spray yourself with chemical but would you prefer to get fun stuff like Chikungunya, Zika, or Malaria? I’ve had the first one and trust me, it isn’t fun. Use mosquito repellent. Also keep in mind that some mosquitoes do bite during the day, not only at night (that is how I got Chikungunya).
Pack a medical kit
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy but it’s important that you’re prepared in the event of illness. There are several things that should be in your bag to help you get through it, or at least, tide you over until you find a pharmacy or doctor – check out this post to learn more.