So you’ve spent months doing your research to plan the perfect holiday. You’ve saved up as much money and leave needed and you’re all hyped up. You arrive, have a meal…and next thing you know, you spend the night next to the toilet bowl; something you ate didn’t agree with you. You wake up the next morning completely exhausted with no appetite to eat and no energy to walk around. It takes you at least 3 days to recover and these 3 days feel like hell, it completely ruins your trip…Does this sound familiar?
Even for the most seasoned traveler, sickness can hit you unexpectedly.
Whether it be a scenario like the above, or falling sick due to other reasons, it is definitely not a fun situation to be in. Even for the most seasoned traveler, sickness can hit you unexpectedly. I mean, if you can get sick at home, your chances of getting sick whilst traveling multiplies – as you are exposed to more foreign elements.
Although, I can’t guarantee a fool-proof way for you to not get sick on holidays, I can give you a few tips on how to avoid it and prepare your body as much as possible.
A healthy diet is fundamental to maintaining a strong immune system. Nutrients such as Zinc, Vitamin A and C, Selenium and Iron all help boost the immune system which defends your body against viruses.
Whether or not you are traveling, eating healthy is something you should be doing anyway.
Make sure to get regular body checks to see if you are deficient in any nutrients. Whilst traveling, if you suspect it may be difficult for you to maintain a balanced diet (access to fruit and vegetables might be difficult for example), it may be a good idea to take some multivitamins.
A healthy diet should be accompanied with regular exercise to maintain general health.
The best way to prevent the spread of germs is by washing your hands regularly. Wash your hands before and after every meal as well as after going to the toilet. Use soap, warm water and rub your hands for 15-20 seconds.
Did you know, some germs can live on surfaces for 2 hours or more!
When traveling it may be hard to have access to clean water (let alone warm water and soap), so always carry a bottle of hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes just in case.
Bottled Water is Your Friend
If you aren’t sure if the tap water in the country you are visiting is clean, stick to bottled water. In situations like this, we usually drink bottled water and even brush our teeth with bottled water just in case.
You should also avoid having ice in your drinks as they may use tap water. If you want to make sure, you can always ask the staff if their ice is made from tap water or bottled water. We found in most tourist areas, especially proper restaurants, their ice is generally safe to drink, but always double check.
If it is summer or you are visiting a tropical country that is generally hot, we suggest you buy a few bottles of water and freeze it overnight. Bring an insulated bottle holder to keep your drink cold for longer. We just got ours from Daiso.
To be extra safe we usually avoid fruits and vegetables that may have been washed with tap water and not cooked. Rule of thumb, if you can’t remove the skin (e.g. strawberries, lettuce…etc) don’t eat it.
When buying bottled water, always check the seal on the bottle cap is intact as a common scam is to refill bottles with tap water. If you want to reduce waste, especially if you are traveling for a long time, you can also buy a bottle with a built-in filter.
Watch Where You Eat
Be careful where you eat as you don’t know their hygiene practices. Busy restaurants are usually a good choice as they are constantly serving and cooking – this ensures their food is always fresh and not sitting around building up bacteria. Even though many people would say to avoid street food, it’s actually not always bad. At least they cook in front of you, unlike normal restaurants, so you can see their entire cooking process. Before ordering anything, observe how clean their kitchen is, how their food (especially raw meats) are stored and whether they wear gloves and wash their hands regularly. Avoid stores that are exposed to a lot of traffic and dust. If you decide to have soup, make sure it is served steaming hot.
As exciting as it is to try new foods, another tip is to try not to overload your stomach with too many different new flavours too quickly. You need to give your stomach some time to adjust to digesting unfamiliar foods. At the beginning of your travels, try to incorporate some familiar flavours into your diet to help your stomach cope with the changes.
Vaccinations, sunscreen and mosquito repellent are important preventative measures. Prevention is better than any cure!
See your doctor 4-8 weeks before you travel to check all your vaccinations are up to date. Many vaccinations need multiple shots or take some time to come in effect so try not to leave it to the last minute. Your doctor can also advise you if you need to take malaria tablets for the country you are visiting.
Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat will help protect you from the potential damage of the sun. Also, don’t forget to stay hydrated.
Mosquitoes carry a lot of diseases, so it is also important to prevent mosquito bites. There are many mosquito repellent sprays you can get from the pharmacy, make sure it is strong enough for the country you are visiting. You can also use mosquito coils and/or mosquito nets. An air-conditioned accommodation is also a good way to keep those annoying mosquitoes out as they are usually better sealed.
Apart from the above, have you heard of Travelan? Travelan is a tablet you take before every meal to prevent traveller’s diarrhoea. We usually carry some with us and take it before any meals that look questionable.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep deprivation suppresses immune system function. Try to get an adequate amount of sleep by sleeping at the same time everyday and waking up at the same time. Of course, this could be difficult when traveling, due to jet lag. There are many ways to battle jet lag, but you will need to find out which works for you. We generally try to sleep on the plane if we know we are arriving at our destination during the day. If we are arriving during the evening, we try to stay awake, so we can sleep when we arrive. This has worked for us, but will not work for everybody.
Although, the above preventative measures have been generally effective for us, it is not fool-proof. We have still gotten sick on occasion, but we have definitely noticed a decline in sick days during our travels. I am no health professional, so everything written above is just what has worked for us from experience. Please consult a health professional for more advice. Safe travels!