Getting sick is not a novel experience.
It is something that happens to everyone and being on the road does not exempt you from that fact. This is particularly true when the nature of your travel itself exposes you to a whole new range of potential illnesses caused by bugs, parasites and new environments. Of course, while the thrill of discovering new places and exploring new environments excite us, the fact of the matter is the longer you are traveling, the more you are exposing yourself to potential illnesses and there is a likely chance that you will pick up a bug or two. However, this is not to say that you should avoid traveling altogether.
They key to minimizing your chances of getting sick is to actively and consciously avoid all the risk factors of becoming sick in the first place. After all, the last thing you want to do is to expose yourself to any more risk than necessary. Keep in mind that the best rule when it comes to being healthy is that prevention is always better than any cure. With that said, it is best to stay healthy while we are traveling as you would not want to spend what precious little travel time you have sick in bed than out seeing the sights. To better prepare yourself, below is a list of the most common diseases associated with traveling.
COMMON TRAVEL ILLNESSES
a.) Traveler’s Diarrhea
Out of the illnesses experienced during travelling, traveler’s diarrhea is the most common. In fact, it is experienced by 20 to 50 percent of international travelers with visitors to developing nations in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa the most at risk. With that said, it is best to avoid undercooked or raw meat, vegetables and fish whenever you are travelling. Fruits that you can peel such as bananas are safe. Also, it is recommended to choose and drink only SEALED bottled waters with a known brand name.
b.) Jet Lag
While not so much of a travel “sickness” per se, it is a common thing most travelers experience when traveling to countries of different time zones and can leave you feeling drained and tired. To help you get rid or avoid jet lag, get into the sun as soon as possible so that you can get your time clock organized immediately. Incidentally, try and pattern your meal times in the same way that locals do and get on their schedules.
The flu is something we experience whether we travel or not. In this regard, getting your annual flu shot is imperative before your trip. It can take weeks to build your immunity so preparing yourself by getting vaccinated and being vigilant about hand washing is paramount. In conjunction to this, be prepared with over-the-counter medications (Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen) should you come down with the flu anytime during your travel.
d.) Altitude Sickness
Altitude sickness feels a lot like a bad hangover. It often happens when you are going up in heights quickly as your body is not used to the lower oxygen levels at higher elevations. It may cause shortness of breath, headache and muscle pain. However, it is easily remedied by a drug called acetazolamide which you are to take a day before your trip and for the first few days to prevent this sort of travel illness.
Sunburn is a travel disease often experienced by tourists who wish to soak up the sun around the pool or on a white sandy beach. Unfortunately, while sunburn may seemingly be harmless, a painful one can ruin your trip. With that said, it is recommended that you pack sunscreen and lip balm with you to keep yourself protected from the sun’s harsh UV rays. If you get burned, wet cloths and cool baths will help ease the pain.
f.) Jellyfish stings
Among the travel illnesses listed here, jellyfish stings are the most painful. Even beached jellyfish and dead ones can sting as pressure triggers the release of the tentacle barbs and venom. In non-tropical areas, wash the area to neutralize the sting. However, in tropical waters, it is recommended to use vinegar to apply to the sting in lieu of water. Shaving cream or soap is also applicable if vinegar is not available. Bear in mind that some jellyfish sting may prove to be more than just a travel illness–it can be fatal. Should the sting cause chest pain, intense pain or shortness of breath, call for help immediately.
TIPS TO PREVENT TRAVEL-RELATED ILLNESSES
a.) Update your vaccinations
Getting yourself vaccinated is paramount in addressing most common travel health concerns. As stated above, prevention is always better than the cure and nothing is better at protecting you from the risk of getting diseases than being vaccinated against it. Keep in mind, however, that you do not need to be vaccinated for every trip. It depends on where you are going and your personal medical history. In this regard, it is essential to get medical advise from your local travel clinic, nurse specialist or physician before traveling.
b.) Clean your hands often
Your hands are dirtier than you think which makes it imperative for you to wash your hands as often as you can. Whether you are traveling or not, know the importance of frequent hand washing and this is the most crucial step to stopping the spread of infection. Incidentally, it significantly reduces your chances of developing travel illnesses.
c.) Avoid food contamination
One of the biggest causes of travel diarrhea and any gastrointestinal problems is food contamination. With that said, you should always exercise a little caution with your food on your travels as you might be exposing yourself to a myriad of parasites and bacteria. Always be sure that the food you eat is fresh and cooked thoroughly.
d.) Stay active
Being active is a way for you to fight off any unwanted infections or illnesses. By now, you should be well aware of the benefits of exercising and staying fit as it improves your overall health and well being and strengthens your immune system. With that said, try and maintain a healthy lifestyle–even when you are traveling.
If you are anxious about developing travel-related illnesses, the simple guide written above can significantly reduce your risk of getting ill abroad. Unfortunately, these simple and straightforward steps are often overlooked. With that said, take a moment to think about your health and prepare appropriately before you set off on your trip. In this way, you would be able to enjoy your trip and with peace of mind that contributes to an overall better travel experience.