The Healthy Traveler
The Healthy Traveler
Nobody wants to get sick while they’re traveling. It’s unpleasant and hard to cope with and it can wreck a trip. There are some things you can do to try and prevent yourself and your family from becoming sick. Below is a list of tips and links that help explain what to do while traveling.
Before leaving on a vacation it may be a wise idea to create a checklist of things to remember. For instance, having insurance, medical kits, and being up to date on all of your immunizations are essential. Two types of insurance to be aware of are travel insurance and health insurance. Having travel insurance you’ll be covered in case of theft, medical problems, and losses that can occur on vacation. Be aware however of the fact that many of the higher medical-expense options for insurance plans are specifically offering coverage in the USA only. Some policies also exclude some of the activities you may be wishing to participate in on your vacation. Activities such as bungee jumping, scuba diving, motorcycling, or even trekking may be excluded as they are considered dangerous activities.
Before leaving it would also be smart to familiarize yourself with your current health insurance plan. What is covered and what isn’t may not be entirely obvious at first. Your insurance plan should have a handbook. Read it over to find out things like where your coverage is accepted, is it still valid if you have an accident out of state? It would also be wise to know if your insurance plans will cover ambulance visits or an emergency flight back to your hometown.
If you are traveling outside of the country, make absolutely sure that your immunizations are up to date, especially if you are traveling to a country where diseases like malaria or hepatitis are common. These things should be considered and looked into with plenty of time to spare before your trip as some immunizations may cause uncomfortable side effects that could seriously detract from an enjoyable vacation. Speak with your doctor before your trip to discuss the proper course of action to take when traveling to a country where dangerous diseases are prevalent.
One helpful yet often overlooked travel tip is to have a small kit of medical essentials with you at all times. This medical kit should include things like aspirin or another pain reliever, an antihistamine such as Benadryl , if you are traveling to a foreign country known to have serious contagious diseases or diseases which are easily contracted antibiotics prescribed by your doctor may be included. Also useful to include in your medical kit are a re-hydration mixture, antiseptic to treat cuts and wounds, multivitamins if traveling to an area where vitamin intake may be inadequate, a lotion or spray to treat bug bites and stings, band-aids and bandages, scissors, tweezers, a non-mercury thermometer, sunscreen, and in the case of traveling to an area with medical hygiene problems bring syringes and needles in case you need an injection. You should however make sure to obtain written permission from your doctor explaining the reason they have been prescribed.
Staying healthy while on vacation can be a challenging task. Nearly half of the people who go on vacation will suffer from a stomach upset of some kind, though these will mostly be minor annoyances and not serious medical conditions. Some things to keep in mind when traveling is the food and drink you consume while on your trip. One main rule of travel is don’t drink the water! Try to only use water that comes in sealed bottles. Even juices can be dangerous if water is added before drinking. Avoid milk unless it is boiled. Hot drinks like tea and coffee are generally okay because of the fact that the water has been boiled.
If you need to drink tap water be sure to boil it beforehand in order to kill any germs. However, water from high altitudes will boil more quickly and not be guaranteed to kill germs so even this should be done with caution. Always purify all water you intend to use, even that water used for brushing your teeth. Another possible way to purify water is water purification tablets. These are especially useful for hiking expeditions where water will be obtained from streams and natural water bodies. Be aware however that not all germs will be killed with these tablets including those germs responsible forgiardia and amoebic cysts.
When choosing meals and snacks on vacation there are a few things to remember. First, always make sure that any raw vegetables and fruits are washed with purified water. Second, if the food has been thoroughly cooked it is probably fine to eat. Third, when buying snacks or treats such as ice cream from food vendors on the street in developing countries make sure that the ice cream hasn’t been refrozen after melting. Most of all, use your best judgement. If you enter a restaurant that looks clean, sanitary, and has a lot of patrons, it is probably a safe place to eat but if the place looks shady and rundown, or is completely empty, it may be best toexorcise a certain amount of caution before sampling any of the fare they have to offer.
If you find you must travel while pregnant be sure to always talk to your doctor first. There are places that require immunizations that are not available for pregnant women. You should also be sure to be close to quality medical care at all times in case of an emergency.
When traveling all women are also at risk of developing gynaecological problems on vacation. A woman traveling to a hot climate while taking antibiotics, sweating, taking birth control pills, or evenwearing synthetic underwear can cause fungal vaginal infections. Keeping up with good personal hygiene and wear loose fitting clothing to help reduce the risk of infection.
Diseases & Ailments
There are several instances when traveling that can cause a variety of medical conditions. Extreme heat or extreme cold can both make one seriously ill while heat stroke and hypothermia can be deadly. To avoid this, make sure that you wear weather-appropriate clothing and stay indoors when it’s either too hot or too cold. You should also be sure to always drink plenty of liquids and wear sunscreen if you will be outdoors for long periods of time. You should also try toprotect your eyes from bright sunlight, especially if you will be surrounded by sand, sun, or snow.
Also common in hot climates is the possibility of contracting fungal infections such as ringworm. These infections are usually found between toes and fingers, on the scalp, and in the groin area although any area of the body issusceptible. A way to prevent fungal infections is by wearing loose clothing made of natural fibers that have been washed frequently and dried carefully.
Altitude sickness can hit once you go above 8,000 feet. To avoid this, ascend a mountain or trail very slowly so your body can acclimate.The effects may be mild and include headache, tiredness, dizziness, loss of appetite, and a difficulty sleeping. More severe symptoms may include breathlessness, cough, severe headache, loss of balance and coordination, confusion, unusual behavior, drowsiness, vomiting, and unconsciousness. Eating light and drinking extra fluids can also help prevent altitude sickness.
Motion sickness can strike while traveling and it usually starts suddenly. There are pills you can take to help with this, but you should also remember to sit in the front of the car or train, on the upper deck of a boat, and or on the wing seats in a plane to help with this.
Jet lag occurs when one crosses time zones if there is a difference of three or more hours from the current time zone to that of the destination. Our bodies have a hard time adjusting to the new hours and full adjustment usually takes around three days. Fatigue and insomnia are just two of the symptoms of jet lag. Also included is a loss of appetite, the inability to concentrate, and anxiety. To minimize the effects of jet lag try to gradually adjust yourschedule prior to departure to that of your destination.
When you travel, you also raise the risk of catching diseases that are typically not found in the United States. Diseases like hepatitis, Dengue fever, diphtheria, intestinal worms,lyme disease, malaria, cholera, and even rabies can be contracted through cuts, bites, or stings from bugs and animals, so be careful to watch for bugs and make sure your immunizations are up to date.
When your small intestine gets infected by a microscopic parasite known as Giardia Lamblia, you will suffer from a case of diarrhea which will really spoil your travel so you have to be prepared for this ailment. As for Japanese B Encephalitis (JE), it’s an infection caused by an RNA virus knownasflavivirus. The agent of JE is the Culex tritaeniorhynchus mosquito. When you are bitten, the development of viraemia can cause inflammation of the heart, liver, lungs, and reticuloendothelial system. Dengue fever and malaria are also related to mosquito bites. If unchecked, dengue fever and malaria can cause death. Usually caused by a viral infection, hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver. There are five main types, namely, hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E.
Diphtheria is an extremely dangerous infection which strikes at the nose and throat. Victims of diphtheria can experience difficulty in breathing and swallowing as a result of the swelling of lymph nodes in the neck. These diseases require medication or medical assistance if contracted, so make sure you have all the necessary cures as well as your health insurance.
Since bugs like mosquitoes are a large part of the contraction of many of these diseases, fending them off is one of the best preventative methods. Doing things likewearing insect repellents, wearing light clothing, avoiding perfumed beauty products and aftershave, and wearing clothing that covers most of your skin can help.
Additional Resources for Healthy Traveling
- High Altitude: Acclimatization and Illnesses: Discusses altitude sickness and how to prevent it.
- Motion Sickness: Shows why motion sickness occurs and how to stop it.
- Jet lag: Outlines the best ways to cope with jet lag.
- Diseases: A list of diseases that commonly affect travelers.
- Healthy Travel Tips: Tips from an airline on staying healthy while traveling.
- Prevention of Food and Waterborne Diseases While Traveling: Explains what to do to prevent contracting certain diseases.
- Healthy Travel Tips: Discusses traveling safely on long flights.
- MD Travel Health: A station where you can choose your destination and then get information about traveling there safely.
- Air Travel Health Tips: Provides good tips about staying healthy while traveling by plane.
- Traveling Well: Some basic tips for making sure you stay healthy on trips.
- Injuries, Accidents and Medical Problems while Traveling: A look at the possible dangers of traveling.
- Don’t Take a Vacation From Health: Explains what kids can do to make sure they don’t get sick on trips.
- Traveling Abroad: Discusses what you need to do to stay healthy while working or traveling abroad.
- The Flu and Traveling: Provides information on whether or not you should travel with the flu.
- Diseases and Medications: A list of diseases you can catch and the vaccines you need to get before you travel.
- 10 Tips for Healthy Travel: Some good tips to follow before you get ready to travel.
- Before You Leave: Discusses what you should do before you leave on a trip.
- Travel Health Information: Shows how to travel well and what medications you may need when you travel.
- Prevent Traveler’s Diarrhea: Some tips to prevent traveler’s diarrhea.