Travelling to a new country is always met with excitement and the exhilarating sense of the unknown. There is also another angle to the unknown – whether or not you’ll fall sick along the journey. With a little preparation and common sense, it’s easy to stay healthy and minimise the chance of becoming ill while on the road.
Here are some healthy travel tips to keep you well!
Healthy Eating and Drinking
One of the best things about travel is sampling the local produce and traditional cooking. While it’s easy to indulge, especially when food prices are a small fraction to those at home, it may be just as easy to fall ill from food poisoning or stomach bugs. When travelling through countries that may not have the same food handling rules and regulations as home, then consider your choices wisely. Steer clear from pre-prepared food from street vendors that has been sitting in the open, or if there are unsanitary conditions like a lack of refrigeration or heating. Avoid foods where bacteria can breed freely, like salads where ingredients haven’t been washed in bottled water. Foods that can be peeled first, like oranges and bananas, are safer choice than apples. Always drink bottles of water or drinks that come in a container that can only be sealed and opened once. Avoid drinks with ice cubes in case the water used to make the ice is not bottled. If you’re chugging back the beers or wine, make sure you don’t overdo it and rehydrate your body regularly, especially during flight travel.
Keep a bottle of antibacterial hand sanitiser in your bag so that you can wash your hands when water supply is not available. Wash your hands before and after each meal and after visiting areas where dirt, animals and dust are aplenty. Keep a pack of tissues or a roll of toilet paper in your day bag in case you visit a bathroom that doesn’t have toilet paper on hand.
Pack a First Aid Kit
Food poisoning can put a seasoned traveller out for a few days with dehydration and exhaustion, and in some case in hospital. The smaller bumps and cuts along the way warrant the least amount of attention yet can be just as health-threatening. A compact first aid kit can take a minimal amount of room and can be a health saviour in an emergency. Keep a decent supply of band-aids, bandages and tape, rubber gloves, small pair of scissors and antiseptic gel. Be sure to include a larger bandage that can be used in the freak scenario when an arm or wrist is broken or shoulder is dislocated. Clean any wounds with bottled water, seal them with antiseptic gel then cover them up as soon as possible to minimise infections. Infections can escalate, particularly in hot, humid weather.
Source government and medical advice on infectious diseases that may exist in the area you’re travelling to and consider getting precautionary injections before you leave such as typhoid, tetanus and hepatitis. Ensure all injections and immunisations are up to date and seek medical advice on what you may be mandatory for the country you’re travelling to. For example, Australians travelling to South America need to be immunised for yellow fever and need to present their yellow fever certificate at customs throughout the duration of the trip. Consider a course of general antibiotics that you can pack in your bag as a precaution in case you fall ill with a bad cold or cough. Even the slightest sniffle or gurgle has the potential to accelerate into severe influenza or bronchitis if you’re travelling in confined spaces like public transport and aeroplanes. Think about preventative tablets for food poisoning and a generous pack of electrolytes, and a course of malaria tablets for travelling in areas where the disease is common. Also consider over-the-counter pain relief for headaches, seasickness tablets or bands, and ginger for motion sickness. Make sure all medications you pack are labelled by a pharmacist so as to minimise suspicion at customs and ensure to check each country’s laws to determine if the medications you are carrying are legal. What may be legal in your country of origin could warrant a potential jail sentence in another.
Rest and Take Care of Your Body
Travel always involves long transit stints, early starts, late nights and strenuous activities. The traveller’s schedule can be quite gruelling at times so it’s important to rest your body when you can. Consider a nap during a long drive or train ride and aim to get a good night’s rest when you have a free night to yourself after a big week of late nights. Aim to go to bed early if you know you have an obscenely early start. Also, know your limits to avoid unnecessary accidents and tumbles.
The medical views expressed in this post are those which I have formed as a result of my own travelling experiences. Before you travel, always consult the professional advice of a certified medical practitioner and the necessary government departments, embassies and consulates in your country.