We all look forward to summer holidays. Taking our foot off the pedal. Getting away from it all. Decompressing. Enjoying a change of scenery. Unfortunately, you may have some unexpected company on your travels. No one likes to get sick, but getting sick abroad is always particularly upsetting. Having your holiday ruined by a sudden illness is an experience you’ll want to avoid if possible. So you can you ensure you have a bon voyage? Reducing your risks of exposure is the first step on your journey. Prevention is always the most effective cure. Here are some travel tips you can take before you pack your bags.
Good health is in your own hands. Literally!
Careful hand washing is essential in the fight against infections. Knowing when and how to wash your hands during your daily activities will help protect you from germs and bacteria. Many people associate fastidious hand washing with hospital visits, but hand hygiene should be observed at all times. And it becomes even more important when you are travelling, because you may not be aware of all the dangers that surround you.
Think hand washing is no big deal? Think again. By carefully washing your hands, you can reduce your exposure to foodborne illness, flu, diarrhoea, norvirus, hepatitis A, gastroenteritis, and vomiting. Any one of them can turn a holiday into a nightmare.
Washing your hands with soap and warm water at meal times, and after using the restroom is a simple practice that can greatly reduce your chances of getting ill. And remember to keep antibacterial hand gel with you at all times.
Mosquito and bed bug bites
We all get the travel bug now and then. That’s what sends you off to the airport in search of fun and adventures. But what about the bugs you might meet on your travels?
When people think of travel bugs, they usually immediately think of mosquitoes. They can be a particularly irritating pest, as their bites can be painful and lead to unsightly welts. And don’t forget the variety of diseases that mosquitoes can carry: yellow fever, dengue, Japanese encephalitis, and chikungunya and malaria.
Some simple research will let you know your likely exposure to mosquito risks. Also stay alerted to outbreaks of diseases associated with mosquitoes, such as malaria or dengue.
Another common companion on people’s travels is the dreaded bed bug. These aren’t as serious a pest as mosquitoes are, but they can ruin a holiday in their own little way. They need your blood and will enthusiastically feast on you while you’re asleep. The first sign of a problem might be red bite marks on your skin when you wake up. Before sleeping in a new bed, check the bedclothes and carpet for signs of bed bug activity. And be sure to alert the property owners to the problem.
- Bed bug bites: What you need to know
- 5 ways to check your hotel room for bed bugs
- How to prevent bed bug bites when travelling
Let’s face it, we all tend to eat too much when we’re travelling. It’s a time to indulge, after all. The diet can be restarted when we get back home. While on holiday, you’ll probably want to savour as many local delicacies as possible. That’s all part of the fun.
What isn’t part of the fun is a bout of diarrhoea or gastrointestinal upset. Instead of walking the ancient cobblestones, you could find yourself spending the holiday sitting on the toilet. No one wants to see that particular holiday selfie! That’s why you have to be very careful about the food you consume while travelling.
Food-borne diseases include E. coli, Shigella, Salmonella, Giardia, Entamoeba hystolytica, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidia, Cyclospora, and cholera.
However, travelling can be hard work and you’re likely to build up an appetite as you cross off the different tourist sights from your packed itinerary. But do take some basic precautions. Make sure the food of good quality. Check the environment where you’re eating. Does it look like good hygiene practices are being observed? Are there any signs of pest activity? Are the staff practicing good food-handling procedures? Do you have any concerns about how the food is displayed or stored? It’s hard to be a detective when you’re starving, but do take the time to check things out before tucking into that meal.
You don’t have to get vaccinated for every holiday. Let’s face it, your chances of catching malaria during a shopping spree on London’s Oxford Street are fairly slim!
However, do be aware of the health risks and take the necessary precautions. If you have specific concerns, consult your doctor before travelling. If you are likely to be exposed to specific health risks, then consider getting a vaccine.
However, you also need to take into account your general health and medical history, as well as any previous vaccines you may have had. And consider the type of trip you’ll be taking, what activities you’ll be taking part in, and how long you’ll be in high-risk areas. Also, keep an eye on travel alerts and advice for the region you’re travelling to. Have there been any recent disease outbreaks or health concerns, for example?
What if you’re going to a region with a high risk of malaria infection? Your doctor will be able to advise but, in general, you should consider taking antimalarial medication if you’re likely to be exposed to a malaria risk. Antimalarials are powerful medication, so you should educate yourself about the different types of medicine available and the side-effects associated with each type. Remember, not everyone experiences the same side-effects from the same medicine. Some people might experience mild irritation whereas other might have a severe reaction.
The more knowledge you have about your destination and your itinerary, the better informed a decision you’ll be able to make. What time of year are you travelling? Have there been recent outbreaks? Will you be in a rural or urban area? Will you be near animals or bodies of water? These all impact your likelihood of being exposed to the disease.
We all know that drinking plenty of water is sound health advice. Water keeps us hydrated and refreshed throughout the day. And if you’re on a strenuous holiday– involving lots of long walks in warm weather, for example–the need to stay hydrated becomes even acuter.
So, you should drink lots of water while on holiday, right? Well, yes… and no. It all depends on the quality of the water. Again, research and knowledge are your most powerful allies. What are the sanitations procedures like in the region you’re visiting? How safe is the tap water? If there are any concerns, you should avoid tap water. And that even includes ice cubes!
Instead, stick to bottled water instead. And remember, you still need to stay hydrated. So don’t skimp on the water intake just because you have to buy bottled water.
If you live in a grey, rain-soaked country, the sun can be a tempting novelty. Who doesn’t love the sight of a clear blue sky on a sunny afternoon?
However, over-exposure to the sunshine can have serious consequences. Sunburn can be a very unpleasant and painful experience, and can also expose you to other health risks. Always take commonsense precautions, such as wearing sun cream and staying in the shade when the sun is blistering. Reapply the sun cream regularly, especially after swimming or showering. If you have concerns, consult your chemist to see which factor of sun cream you should use.
And don’t forget your water! You can easily become dehydrated in the sunshine. This can initially lead to feelings of dizziness and disorientation, but could quickly develop into a more serious situation, such as heat exhaustion or sunstroke.
The healthier you are, the better able you’ll be to fight any infections or illnesses. One of the simplest ways to maintain good health is regular exercise. As well as improving your overall well-being, regular exercise boosts your immune system, enabling you to defend yourself from illness.
Of course, even healthy people get sick now and then. But one of the key benefits of regular exercise is that, even if you do get sick, you’ll be more able to deal with the infection and recover more quickly. You’ll be able to take sickness in your stride, while your less healthy friends collapse in a heap from the minor illnesses.
Do try to maintain healthy habits while on holiday. It can be tempting to kick back and relax (and indulge in alcohol and junk food) when you get away, but it pays to incorporate some healthy activities into your itinerary. Even a pleasant stroll around the tourist sights or a ramble up a scenic hill can be beneficial.
No matter where you go in the world, you’re likely to be exposed to some health risk or other. Seasoned travellers know that this is simply part of the package and they take the necessary precautions. By educating yourself about your destination and taking the necessary preventative measures, you can help ensure that you have a healthy break and return from your travels relaxed and refreshed.
And remember, if you have any health concerns, consult a medical expert before you travel.