Interestingly, I wrote this article just before the Covid-19 Pandemic. However, after rereading it, it seems very appropriate as we begin to think about future travel plans. Always follow any WHO and your country’s CDC or medical guidelines. Be Safe!
Traveling is exciting and fun, but it can also be stressful. Planning a travel strategy and booking your plans can be an overwhelming task. Stress, combined with air travel can cause illness. In addition, when traveling, you may be exposed to bacteria and viruses that your body is not used to. Below are the top 15 ways I find help me stay healthy while traveling.
When traveling, you are often exposed to water and food that you may not be accustomed to. As relaxing as travel can be, you may find that you are jet lagged, or just not getting enough sleep. All of these factors can lead to illness.
Before Departing on Travel, Top 15 Ways to Stay Healthy While Traveling
- 1. Be sure you are current on both the required and suggested vaccinations for the area you are visiting. Speak with your healthcare provider, and check the current recommendations on your government website. Be sure to get your vaccines in a timely manner. Some require a certain number of days prior to exposure in order to be effective.
- 2. Refill all necessary medications that you regularly take and be sure you have enough for your planned travel, and a little extra in case of unexpected delays.
- 3. Check with your healthcare provider and your government website for any current health risks in the area to which you plan to travel. Determine whether it is safe for you to go. If so, inquire how to protect yourself. Examples are if you are pregnant, or plan on becoming pregnant, know the Zika risk. If there is a risk for Malaria, be sure to get the necessary prescription and start the pills in a timely manner.
Upon Arrival, Top 15 Ways to Stay Healthy While Traveling
When you are overtired, you are much more vulnerable to falling ill.
- 4. Get enough sleep! I know. I know. It is exciting. You are in a new place. The nightlife is incredible. But still, try to get adequate amounts of rest. Being overtired not only invites illness, but also makes you more susceptible to accidents.
- 5. Try to beat jet lag. It is difficult to adapt to a new time zone, but the sooner you do, the better it will be. See my complete article on Dealing with jet lag.
During Travel, Top 15 Ways to Stay Healthy While Traveling
There are many simple, yet effective preventative measures that really help to keep people healthy during travel.
Keeping Your Hands Clean
- 6. Wash your hands prior to eating and touching your face, nose, and mouth. Wash your hands after using the restroom and when in public places such as airports, planes, subways, museums, and malls. Hand washing is one of the most effective preventative measures from illness. Always use soap and warm water and wash for a minimum of 20 seconds.
- 7. Carry hand sanitizer. Unfortunately you may not always have access to soap and water. Hand sanitizer is certainly better than nothing and can kill up to 99% of germs. It helps to promote healthy hands. It can also be used in conjunction with hand washing. This is especially effective if the water you are using is uncertain. Effective hand sanitizer should contain a minimum of 60% alcohol.
- 8. If you are sick, or if you are around people that are ill, it may help to wear a surgical style mask that covers your nose and mouth.
- 9. Always cover your mouth when sneezing. Use the crook of your arm, not your hands, if you do not have a napkin, tissue or cloth available to cover your face.
- 10. Be sure to drink only potable or filtered water and ice. Bring your own water filtration kit if you have doubts. In areas where water and food supply have known issues, do not consume raw or undercooked foods and be sure all broths have come to a full boil. In these instances, fried food tends to be safest. Do not consume foods that have not been properly refrigerated, such as dairy.
- 11. Do not sit directly on public toilet seats. If you must sit down, make a nest out of toilet paper or paper towel. I travel with a small supply of toiletseat covers that can be used in case of emergency. If you cover the toilet seat, be sure it is dry first. *Remember not to flush items that the toilet cannot handle. If you are unsure, use a waste receptacle.
- 12. In areas wear mosquitoes are prevalent, protect yourself by wearing a repellent. While I do not like using chemicals, in affected areas, I find that a bug spray containing DEET, is most effective. Other options are sprays containing picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon, eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. In infested areas wear long sleeved and pant clothing that is treated with permethrin. Also keep doors and windows closed if they lack screens. Use a mosquito net when applicable. Avoid areas with still standing water. Talk to a medical professional about areas that require an anti-malarial medication.
13. Always wear Sunscreen with a recommended minimum of SPF 15. Even when the sun is not blaring, or it is cloudy, you can still be receiving harmful rays. Sunscreen should be put on 30 minutes prior to being in the sun. If you plan on being in the water or are sweating, choose water resistant or sport screen respectively. Always use an environmentally friendly reef safe product. Reapply every 2 to 3 hours or more often as needed.
- 14. If you find yourself with mild diarrhea or other illness, be sure to consume adequate fluids and do not get dehydrated. If you feel extremely ill, seek professional medical assistance immediately.
- 15. After returning from travel, if you feel unwell, think you were exposed to an infectious disease, continue to have diarrhea, or think something just is not right, do NOT wait! Contact a medical professional, and get checked out right away. Better safe than sorry!
- NOTE: If you think you have been exposed to an infectious disease, contact a medical professional, CDC, or the WHO immediately to avoid spreading the disease and contaminating others. Even if you are asymptomatic, if in doubt, get professional advice immediately.
TIP: There is clothing you can purchase, that is pretreated with permethrin. This clothing protects from mosquitos, chiggers, ticks, ants, flies, and more. It is super easy as you can just buy and wear if you are uncomfortable spraying yourself.