Setting off on a new adventure can be one of the best feelings in the world: a combination of anticipation, exhilaration, and the knowledge that when you return, your life will be that much richer for the experience. However, travel can also provide a few health risks that can seriously dampen your time away, so have a look at the below 1,2,3 of healthy travel, to ensure you’re as prepared as possible for potential hazards along the way.
1- Before You Go
- To start with, and particularly if you’re traveling to more out-of-the-way destinations, check the WHO and CDC checklists for necessary vaccines and any health warnings for your destination and visit your nearest travel clinic for the relevant shots.
- While a vaccine is still tantalizingly out of reach for illnesses like malaria it is necessary to take preventative medications to avoid infection in high-risk areas. Begin any meds that need resistance to be built up, like antimalarials for a week or two or seasickness tablets that need at least a few hours before embarkation to set in.
- Pack a first aid kit; focus on stomach meds for diarrhea, cramping and nausea as well as probiotics to restore balance; according to the WHO, more than 50% of travelers will suffer stomach complaints while away. Also include band-aids, a bandage, surgical tape, and small scissors, antiseptic rinse or wipes, painkillers, antihistamine cream and pills,anti-bacterial cream and sterile gloves.
- Boost your immune system by dosing up on Vitamin C and other supplements. Upper respiratory tract infections are common in travelers, especially thanks to confined spaces in transit and foreign strains of bugs at destinations, so do what you can to build up your inner army.
- Buy travel insurance which includes healthcare. This may be unnecessary if your health insurance or CC offer built-in travel insurance, but be sure to read the fine print to ensure nothing is left out — a few days in a foreign hospital can be surprisingly expensive.
- Take photos of your luggage before you depart so you can easily ID it to authorities if it goes missing.
- Scan or photograph all travel documents and keep them on hand via email or saved to your phone if you’re traveling with one.
- Book medical, dental and eye check-ups before you go, you don’t want a crown to come loose as you arrive at your middle-of-nowhere destination.
2 – In Transit
- Travel with copies of all of your prescriptions, including glasses/contacts or contraceptives that may run out. Also, have information about allergies on hand especially if you travel with an EpiPen.
- Wipe down tray tables, armrests etc. with disinfectant wipes, it may look a little OTT but could save you from contracting a foreign illness that your body’s immune system is helpless to fight.
- Travel with wet wipes, for a multitude of situations.
- Keep hydrated, in-flight especially, aim for 1 cup/hr of travel to ensure you arrive fresh and glowing.
- Avoid drinking all of the free booze offered by your airline, that and a carby meal will only dehydrate and bloat — which is not a great way to start a new adventure.
- Pack your own snacks, whether plane, train or automobile, you’ll be less likely to binge on something unhealthy, if you stick to your own choices. Nuts, seeds, rice crackers, and where possible (check with border control) fresh fruit and veg, are far better than pre-prepared, processed, in-transit options.
- However you’re traveling, get up every hour and stretch and do exercises to stimulate blood flow — assuming, of course, you’re a passenger and it is safe to do so.
- When traveling, in third world countries especially, avoid food vendors who offer food on the side of the tracks/dock — if it isn’t made before your eyes, who knows what hygiene was observed?
- Be wary of pickpockets in crowded stations or streets. If someone approaches and invades your personal space, even on the premise of lending a helping hand, be cautious and keep a close eye on your money and travel documents.
3 – At your destination.
- Check local water safety — if at all in doubt, buy only bottled water and make sure the seal snaps when you open the bottle, to be sure bottles haven’t simply been re-filled behind the bar, with the tap water you’re avoiding.
- When you’re unfamiliar with local medical services, or if there simply are not near enough, a certified online doctor may save the day. If you will have access to the internet, choose an online doctor prescription service that gives you 24-hour access to a doctor who can advise you on treatment, even in the most out of reach places.
- Eating street food can provide half of the joy you associate with travel, however, it is smart to only go for specific options — cooked food that you watch coming off the fire/out of the oil is your best bet, just be sure no contamination occurs before being served to you. Avoid fresh vegetables/fruit that can’t be peeled, and if water sources are questionable, avoid ice in your drinks.
- Stay on the move; while your regular exercise routine may go out the window, hopping on a public bike, walking between sights or taking the stairs will help ensure you stay fit throughout your trip.
- Avoid jet lag by trying to stick as close as possible to your normal sleep routine, but using the local, current timezone. Get out into the sunlight to help your circadian rhythm readjust, or consider taking melatonin, prescribed by your GP, to help you sleep better when you need to. And of course, sleep – a lot – whenever you can, to realign after the stresses of travel.
- If your hotel offers a breakfast buffet, start the day off right with some fruit and lean protein, it’s more likely you’ll have to grab an unhealthy snack later in the day, so take advantage of a large, clean meal on your doorstep.
- If possible, prepare as many of your own meals as possible, this allows for control of ingredients and sanitation. Also, it is the more cost-effective option, especially if you shop at local stores or markets.
At the end of the day you want to enjoy your trip, so don’t get paranoid; safe, healthy travel largely relies on making smart choices. Before you leave, commit to taking care of yourself, do make an effort to choose the healthy option when possible, whether it’s food or exercise and avoid clear health risks when they cross your path. Safe travels.