Traveling is meant to rejuvenate your spirit but the reality is that most people tend to get sick after a big trip or worse, while they are on it. As fun and rewarding as travel can be, it does increase your chances of coming down with something. Unfortunately, planes, trains, and ships are cesspools of viruses. You are exposed to more people than usual and you’re in very close proximity to one another. Not to mention, foreign travel can expose you to all types of diseases and bacteria that you may not even realize are a threat, simply because they are not an issue in the United States. There are many reasons why traveling can increase your odds of catching something (especially during peak times of the year) but fortunately, there are also ways you can prevent getting sick. We’ve compiled a few helpful tips to help you avoid getting sick on the road. This way you can return from your travels refreshed and ready to face the world!
Wash your Hands
While this tip may seem obvious, it cannot be stressed enough. The simple exercise of washing your hands before meals and after using the restroom has been proven to stop the spread of infection. Don’t make the common mistake of thinking that hand sanitizer can replace soap and water. If you don’t have access to a sink, hand gel is better than nothing but you should always do your best to wash the old fashioned way. This basic habit can save you from the pain and inconvenience of getting sick.
Watch out for Food Contamination
When traveling the world, food contamination is one of the biggest causes of stomach-related problems. Unless you plan on spending your entire vacation in the bathroom, there are a few rules to live by to avoid coming down with a very inconvenient stomach bug. For starters, it never hurts to do your research. By only going to restaurants with lots of great reviews, it’s likely that you don’t have to worry about food contamination. In some more obscure locations, you won’t be able to rely on Yelp to guide your decisions. When possible, try to make sure the food you consume is fresh, cooked all the way through, and hot out of the kitchen. Unfortunately, you might not have a front row seat to the kitchen and its chef, but do your best to observe the general hygiene and conditions of the establishment. Pay attention to your gut, literally. While we are on the subject of food, it may make sense to stick to food you are comfortable with. Indulging in local cuisine is one of the best parts of traveling and it should absolutely be experienced but make sure to ease into your new diet. It doesn’t hurt to blend the food you know with the local cuisine for a more balanced approach. One final note: If you’re unsure of a location’s water quality, do your best to drink bottled water and make sure the seal has not been tampered with. Your stomach will be forever grateful.
Treat your Body Right
When traveling, it can be tough to get into a routine. That said, the importance of exercising and getting enough sleep cannot be overstated. Exercise has many documented benefits (an increase in energy and overall well-being) but it’s also been linked to helping boost your immune system. A strong immune system makes you less susceptible to illness and if you do get sick, you are able to bounce back much quicker. Since treadmills and stair-masters may not be accessible on your journeys, you have even more of a reason to plan an adventure that requires some physical activity. Whether you commit to a leisurely hike or decide to zip-line through the jungle, exercising is a great way to fight off infection and participate in an incredible experience. Now that you got your steps in, it’s important to take care of your sleep routine. Most adults require at least 8 hours a day and that’s under normal circumstances. Since traveling can be stressful and exhausting, you may even require a bit more ZZZs. It can be tough to get into a routine on the road but sleep deprivation is a sure way to get sick before you know it. Make sleep a priority and you’ll be way less likely to get ill.
Depending on the itinerary of your trip, a vaccination could be a very smart (and potentially life-saving) decision. While some diseases and ailments can be cured, prevention is always the better choice. Determining what vaccinations you need is a very complex decision. What vaccinations do you already have? Where do you plan on visiting? What is your medical history? Ultimately, a consultation with your doctor will be necessary to determine next steps.
Getting sick on the road is a risk we face and while it’s never fun, it shouldn’t deter you from going on that next great adventure. Fortunately, there are some best practices to follow to decrease your chances of coming down with something. If you stick to these general guidelines, you’ll have a fulfilling (and healthy) trip!