Travelling is exciting – there’s no doubt about it. But there is nothing worse than becoming unwell during your travels. So what do you need to do to keep healthy while overseas?
Whether you’re a regular, seasoned jet setter, a ‘once or twice a year’ kind of person, it’s one of the things many people look forward to the most in their year – myself included! And with good reason… there’s no feeling like when the plane touches down on the runway or that first deep breath as you leave the airport, taking in the fresh air of your next adventure.
But regardless of where you’re planning to go on your travels, or whatever wild and wonderful activities you plan on doing whilst you’re there, being unwell is something you don’t even want to think about.
There might be a million things on your holiday-to-do-list, but getting sick just really isn’t one of them, is it?
Having said that, there’s no fool-proof way to ensure you won’t get ill – it’s just a part of life, both in your job/school/university and unfortunately on your travels too. And sick bugs and other illnesses don’t take pity – they strike when they want, with no room for negotiation and, more often than not, no warning.
Of course, it’s not the end of the world, and with a huge range of travel insurance policies out there nowadays (some you can even pick up with the tap of a button, I always use Covermore, but there are several other providers also), whatever costs or inconveniences you might incur are likely to be returned.
But that’s not the point; sitting at home whilst the flight takes off is never going to make you happy, even if you never ended up out of pocket.
No matter how doomy-and-gloomy it sounds, it’s not all up to chance, as there are a few precautions you can take in order to: A) Reduce the likelihood that you will get sick, and B) Help to give yourself a speedy recovery if you do:
What You Can Do Before You Go
The first thing I do when booking my travels is to ask my local doctor if there are any vaccinations or medications required or recommended for my chosen destination(s).
It’s also a good idea to ask if there are any optional medications, or even general health precautions to take – the chances of catching something might be lower, but it wouldn’t hurt to eliminate the risk entirely.
Don’t know your doctor, or tight for the time before you go? Searching online can often yield the answers you want in order to speed things up. Once you know what you need, you can get booked in privately, or contact your doctor with exactly what jabs or medication you’re looking for.
But be cautious – only trust legitimate medial sources (sites like the World Health Organisation or your government’s department of health), and stray away from public forums and chat rooms. In short, whether finding out in-person or online, it’s much safer to just listen to the professionals.
After I’ve gotten all the medical stuff sorted, I also make sure to start taking some sort of multi-vitamin and/or probiotic around a couple of weeks before I go.
Is that necessary? In most cases probably not, but there is no harm in boosting my immune system, reducing the risk of bugs and infections.
Should you do the same? It’s really up to you and where you plan on travelling to. A 5-star resort in a developed country will have different risks to camping in a festival halfway across the world. Do your research and decide what you need – just make sure you don’t leave it too late.
The third and final thing to bear in mind (one that most people don’t pay attention to before travelling) is their general health.
Vaccinations and vitamins can help prepare your body for the various environmental changes that overseas travel might bring, but stepping onto the plane after a stressful week, dehydrated, and without eating breakfast can be just as hazardous.
A trap a lot of people fall into, especially when it comes to your annual holiday, is rushing around trying to tie up a lot of loose ends, particularly work-related things.
If you’re not careful though you can completely exhaust yourself which will make you much more susceptible to getting sick right at the very start of your trip. That’s not ideal for anyone!
Keeping Healthy While Overseas
Now what you can do, and what you need to do while travelling is mostly dependent on your destination. As well as the things already mentioned, things like the weather, time of year, or even whether you’ve been there before or not, can all have an effect on your risk of getting sick whilst travelling.
What I’ve done is put together a quick list of things that utilised in the past, to help keep my health in check whilst on the road:
Keep Taking Multi-Vitamins
Taking them before you go is a good way to ‘get the ball rolling’, but it’s also crucial to keep taking them whilst you’re there.
If you are anything like me, dietary choices whilst traveling tend to fall into “that looks like it’ll be fun to try” more so than the “that looks nutritious” category.
So while the effects of having taken multi-vitamins won’t have worn off at the start of your trip, if you keep taking them you’ll give yourself a bit more buffer as your travels continue.
Drink Bottled Water
Depending on where you go, the water supply might not be as reliable as what you’re used to back at home.
Unless you’ve been told specifically that the tap water is safe to consume, avoid drinking and brushing your teeth with water from the tap – use bottled water instead.
I’ll always buy bottled water when I travel, even in more developed countries, to drink firstly because it’s handy to have with you and keep hydrated. But it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the tap water.
Carry Anti-Bacterial Handwash (or Hand Sanitiser)
In this new COVID-19 era of travel, the use hand sanitiser on a regular basis is more important than ever, and especially before meals.
Even if you can’t remember touching anything dirty, things like railings, seat belts, or even tabletops and chairs are likely to have been in contact with more people than you can count.
Use hand sanitiser through the day and especially before each meal.
Get Plenty of Rest (When You Can)
This one ties in with ensuring general well-being. Travelling can be exhausting, and even spending hours on buses or trains in-between destinations can take its toll.
Listen to your body when it tells you its tired, and get plenty of rest when the opportunity arises.
Exhaustion is no way to round out your travels! And even if you don’t get sick during your trip, it can carry over back into your life at home once you get back.
Carry a First Aid Kit (A Good One)
It doesn’t have to military-grade one, but carrying a decent first aid kit can be a huge help, as it’s so easy to get come across minor cuts and bruises. Especially if you are being a little more adventurous than usual.
You can pick them up online for a small price, and they can save you a lot of hassle if something were to happen. Even if you don’t buy a specific first aid kit, having a couple of bandages, bandaids and antiseptic wipes will go a long way to giving you piece of mind.
The last thing you want to do while travelling is having to look for a pharmacy for a simple cut or scrape. Especially if you don’t speak the language.
Carry Anti-Diarrhea, Gastro, etc. Medication
Again, this falls into the last things you want to even think about while travelling. However when you travel a lot of things change, your diet, the environment, how you go about the day, even the drinking water (back to one of my previous points) so encountering bowel problems can and does happen.
That’s a sure-fire way to ruin your adventures, particularly if your travelling to places a little more remote or that their plumbing and other facilities may not be up to a standard that you are used to at home.
So just make sure you pack Anti-Diarrhea, Gastro and any other medications you think you might need before you leave home and you’ll be grateful you did.
All In All
Even after taking numerous precautions, there’s still the possibility of getting sick during your travels. Some things are unavoidable.
Even if where you’re going doesn’t seem like the most farfetched place, there’s a good chance that almost everything will be different to what you’re used to back home – the food, the water, the cleanliness, the air quality etc. But it’s all part of the experience. Besides, what would be the point if it was just like home?
There are two things you should take away from this:
Firstly, although every environment you visit hosts a whole range of potential illnesses, don’t let this scare you off. Most people don’t encounter anything at all, so the best you can do is take some precautions and leave the rest up to chance.
And secondly, even if you’re not 100% whilst on your travels, always try to make the most of your destination.
Don’t ignore the warning signs your body and mind give you – i.e. if you need to rest, rest – but if you can muster up the energy, make the most of your time there, after all, that’s exactly what you’re there for.
I hope this helps and gives you peace of mind that you can keep healthy while you are overseas. Feel free to share this post with your friends if you think they might get some value out of it too.
For more travel tips, make sure you check out the rest of my blog posts as well.