If you get to travel, it often means you’re lucky; lucky to have taken the time off work, to have saved up enough for the trip, and sometimes in the case of solo travel, to have convinced friends, family, or your partner, that you’re totally fine alone.
So the last thing you want to do is put a gigantic damper on your good work by getting sick before, during, or after your time away.
We’ve put so much focus on not catching COVID these past two years, that we’ve almost forgotten about the many other common illnesses which you can pick up when you travel if you’re not aware or being properly cautious.
So now that borders are reopening, and we’re all vaccinated and armed against the pandemic, it’s time for a refresh on the basics of avoiding other common sickness.
Simple Ways to Avoid Getting Sick While You Travel
Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to getting sick abroad, so it’s important not to procrastinate on your planning, as there are many health checks you should do before your departure.
Things like getting any required vaccinations (beyond COVID, you may be required to get a Yellow Fever Vaccine, for instance), organizing medications for pre-existing conditions, and researching how to deal with food allergies are all ways to prevent yourself getting sick while traveling.
But the other factor we tend to forget about is stress.
The lead up to a trip can be incredibly stressful, especially if you’ve left much of the logistics to the last minute, so if you don’t have the basis out of the way before you leave, serious stress can weaken your immune system and make you very sick.
Prior planning means you won’t wear yourself out right before you leave, and won’t be vulnerable and susceptible to picking up a virus on the road. So don’t procrastinate!
Wash Your Hands
Contrary to what some believe, washing your hands was essential before the pandemic, and it’s definitely not something which should be tossed aside now that the pandemic is over (or the threat has lessened).
This is not new, and is a basic rule which should always be followed for preventing sickness, whether you’re traveling or staying at home.
Reality: There’s no way to avoid community germs when you travel. Even if you meticulously plan a solo road trip full of nothing but outdoorsy activities, you still have to stop for gas, use public restrooms, and buy food.
All those door handles, gas pumps, and credit card machines have had a ton of hands on them. Lots of hands mean lots of germs. If you are traveling by air, rail, or bus, assume no surface is safe.
The great news is that washing your hands with plain old soap and water is a highly effective way to get those microscopic buggers who want to make you sneeze and cough off your skin and down the drain.
Wash your hands often and well. It’s probably the number one, most effective thing you can do to avoid getting ill from your travels.
Wash Your Face
Everyone touches their face, often without even realizing they’re doing it. In doing so, we deposit all kinds of potential stomach bugs, colds and flus right near our eyes, noses, and mouths.
Even when you are just out and about, not touching door handles or eating greasy food, there are air pollutants to contend with.
While a bout of pink eye likely won’t be the end of the world for you, it can really hurt. Besides, a swollen, discolored eye doesn’t exactly set the tone for the coolest Instagram photos of all time. And depending on which region of the worl you’re traveling, certain infections like trachoma can actually cause blindness.
Again, fortunately, some simple hygiene is the best antidote to any gross germs you’ve picked up along the way. Just wash your face at the end of every day.
The best face wash will be something like a scrub cleanser that gets the grime off your face, but also the dead skin cells that germs may be sticking to.
Check the Water Situation
So, you’re washing your hands, and washing your face, and you’re obviously drinking water while you’re traveling too (noting that accepting ice in drinks is also consuming local water).
Everywhere you go, there will be different water rules. So you need to know whether you can drink the tap water, or do you need to find bottled water?
Can you use tap water to make coffee or morning lemon water? Can you use tap water to brush your teeth? Is it safe to eat raw fruits and vegetables that have been rinsed with tap water?
Consuming contaminated water, even a little, can cause illnesses such as diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio.
Every area is different. Typically, within the United States and Canada, you can drink tap water. In Europe, tap water is generally safe to consume but may not taste good because culturally bottled water is the norm.
In Asia, Africa, and South America, you will need to look at the rules for the country and region in which you will be traveling.
That being said, it is very important to your health to make sure you hydrate. Figure out how to get safe water and drink, drink, drink to avoid fatigue and headaches.
These are four very simple ways to avoid sickness while you travel. While not an exhaustive list of all possible preventative measures, these basics will form a foundation for you to then build upon depending on the level of caution you wish to take.