Getting sick is a part of everyday life, traveling or being on vacation will not exempt you from that fact. If anything, you have a greater chance in unknown environments.
Consider that more than 2.6 million passengers board a plane in the United States alone each and every day and over 4 Billion passenger flew in 2017, setting a new travel record. That is a lot of new people, foods, viruses, bacteria, parasites, bugs, and stresses that can all play a part in breaking down your immune system.
However, you can take precautions to help protect yourself and enjoy your time away from home.
Plan and Prepare
Prevention is far better than any cure and it all starts before you leave home.
The simple act of planning can alleviate some of the stress’s associated with a trip. Stress tends to increase cortisol in your body and decrease your white blood cells. That can make you more susceptible to viruses during your travels.
Planning for your body’s normal reactions can also help. If you tend to be more prone to allergies or a certain sickness, bring vitamins, over the counter medicines or prescriptions with you so you are prepared when you first feel oncoming symptoms.
Visit your doctor well in advance and update prescriptions or get recommended vaccinations for your destination. Not all vaccinations are required for every individual for every trip. It is important that you get one-on-one personal advice from your local clinic, specialist, or physician before you travel.
Sanitize, Sanitize, Sanitize
While janitorial crews do a great job to keep facilities clean, germs are sneaky.
Keeping your hands clean is one of the most important steps that can be taken to avoid getting sick. It reduces your chances of diarrhea, vomiting, food poisoning, gastroenteritis, flu, norovirus, MRSA, and even hepatitis A. If handwashing isn’t possible, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol makes a good backup.
Wiping down high-touch areas, like handles, arm rests, seat belts, etc. with disinfecting wipes can also help. For larger areas, UV light sanitizing technology kills up to 99.9 percent of germs from hard surfaces and fabrics.
Take Care of Your Insides
Disrupting your normal digestive system routine can have negative side effects to your overall health. Try and stick as close to your normal routine as you can.
Pack some of your normal edibles. Depending on your destination, you may be limited. Consider healthy non-perishables like: granola, oatmeal, protein powder, crackers, nuts, dried fruit, beef jerky, tuna, peanut butter and seeds.
Start increasing your water intake before you go and bring plenty with you. Traveling tends to dehydrate you, especially at high altitudes, so if you fly or are staying at high altitudes, make sure you drink even more than normal. Add a few tea bags to your bag as well. Consider rosehip or ginger tea to deliver a healthy dose of vitamin C, help with upset stomachs, muscle aches and fight off infections.
Also, bring your own re-usable bottle so you don’t have to rely on other’s glasses, paper or plastic.
Care for Your Skin
A sunburn can seriously ruin a good travel experience! Apply a strong SPF sunscreen before you get dressed and pay special attention to places that you may not think about, your scalp, ears and back of the hands. Bring a travel-sized bottle with you and re-apply to exposed areas every few hours.
Protecting your skin goes beyond good sunscreen. Stay well hydrated to keep your skin healthy, especially if you will be in a hot or tropical climate. Cover up with breathable clothing and wear a hat or bandana. Know the symptoms of dehydration and stay aware. It can set in quickly and if you don’t take immediate action it can become a medical emergency.
Smart clothing choices in addition to repellent can also protect your skin from bug bites, including mosquito bites which can be a traveler’s nightmare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization, they have been known to transmit diseases, such as yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya, and malaria.
Rest When You Can
Even though the excitement of your vacation destination may have you wound up and wanting to forge forward right away, it’s best to take at easy right after a day (or more) of travel. Researchers at the University of Washington have discovered a link between sleep deprivation and a suppressed immune system, so getting a good night’s rest when you arrive at your destination will reduce your likelihood of getting sick.
Vacations should be enjoyed, but for many people, travel is a stressful experience. While the unsung heroes of janitorial crews around the world work hard to keep areas healthy and clean, the contamination of a simple sneeze or cough can undue hours of work. That is why it is important to think about your health and prepare properly so you can reduce your risk of getting ill while you’re trying to enjoy your time off.