5 Tips For Staying Healthy Abroad
Anyone who’s traveled extensively has become ill at some point, whether it’s Montezuma’s Revenge or Malaria. To prevent the same thing from happening to you, here are some quick tips to stay healthy abroad and keep your travels happy!
1. Take Your Medicine
Do your research and find out what vaccinations and prophylactics (such as anti-malarials) are recommended for your travel destination. Two great resources for this are The Center for Disease Control website and The World Health Organization International Travel and Health website. When you find out what is recommended, or even as a precaution to find out about anything you didn’t think of, visit your nearest travel clinic and speak with a doctor there who can give you the best insight for preventative measures.
2. Prepare For The Elements
It goes without saying that if you’re traveling somewhere cold, you need to bring some layers and bundle up. However, many places require different precautions. Even if I’m going somewhere warm and sunny, I like to bring some lightweight long sleeved options, as well as some pants in addition to shorts. This will give you much more sun protection than just sunscreen (although you shouldn’t forget that either!), as well as some protection from insects.
Speaking of insects, especially with the recent outbreak of Zika which has rapidly spread through Central and South America, make sure to protect yourself from insect-borne illnesses. As I mentioned in #1, bring anti-malarial pills if you’re going to any country at risk of Malaria. In addition, bring clothing that covers you as much as possible with enough thickness to prevent mosquito bites, and bring insect repellent as well. If possible, sleep under a mosquito net and have a can of mosquito killer handy for any intruders in your room.
3. You Are What You Eat (And Drink!)
Some countries have a reputation for exquisitely prepared, top of the line cuisine. Others, well, maybe not quite so much. Don’t let fear of food-borne illness stop you from trying something new, by all means, eat that fried scorpion! As always, you should do your research as to what foods are safe in your travel destination of choice, but a good rule of thumb for developing countries (I’d include China in this list as well):
- Make sure everything is cooked all the way through, INCLUDING FRUIT AND VEGETABLES.
- Only drink water from trusted, clean sources. Don’t drink table water at restaurants unless they bring you the sealed bottle. If you don’t have a choice, boil the water you have available to you.
- Don’t take ice in your drinks.
- Be wary of dairy, both unpasteurized and chemically fortified types.
4. Pretend Your Hands Are Always Dirty
Hands are huge sources of bacteria, and they’re always inadvertently making contact with your eyes, mouth and nose. Make it a point to use hand sanitizer before handling food and wash your hands religiously.
I also have a hard and fast rule when abroad of never letting my hands make direct contact with my mouth and, when possible, my food (you can break this rule for eating top-tier sushi in Japan). Even if you just washed your hands, the simple act of opening the bathroom door on your way to your table can recontaminate them. Better to be safe than sorry.
5. Cover Your Behind
You can’t prevent everything, so sometimes you just have to plan for the unexpected. Make sure you have travel insurance no matter how benign the trip may seem, you never know what could happen. A friend I made in Uganda had to be airlifted due to a freak canoeing accident (how often do you hear that term?) and thankfully had travel insurance so she was able to be taken to somewhere with proper care. Repatriation fees can cost a fortune as well, so don’t let your dream vacation ruin you financially because you neglected to pay a small fee for travel insurance.
Remember, these are all precautionary measures that shouldn’t get in the way of your travels. Don’t let your fears get in the way of amazing new experiences and adventures, and don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone. Any other tips? Leave a comment below!