12 Ways To Avoid Getting Sick When You Travel
Whether you’re going for business or pleasure, travel can be stressful. Between booking flights, arranging hotels and looking at rental cars, the last thing you need to deal with is getting sick.
Travel in general can expose us to germs and illnesses we might not normally experience, and while it’s not always possible to prevent sickness, there are definitely some things you can do to mitigate the chance of illness when you travel.
Here are 12 ways to avoid getting sick when you travel.
Wash Your Hands
Probably one of the most important things you can do to maintain your health and keep germs at bay, regular hand washing has been shown to prevent upwards of 30 percent of different types of illness. Make sure you fully lather your hands with soap each time you wash them, and scrub for a good 20 seconds.
Wipe Down Trays, Phones, Armrests
Anything that other people’s dirty hands can touch is a carrier for illness. Bring some sanitizing wipes with you when you travel and make sure to wipe down the food trays and armrests on the plane, hotel phones and doorknobs. Being a bit of a germaphobe when you travel isn’t a bad thing!
Don’t Touch Your Face
How often do you wipe something from your eye, brush your lip, or rest your cheek on your hand? The bacteria that accumulates on our hands is most quickly spread when we touch our faces. In addition to washing your hands regularly, try to avoid touching your face if possible. This will reduce the potential for issues such as conjunctivitis in the eye or other infections.
Don’t Drink the Water
Contaminated water is one of the biggest causes of illness for travelers. There can be pathogens in foreign water that our bodies simply aren’t used to, which can mean hours or days of gut-wrenching illness. It’s usually safest to drink bottled or filtered water when you travel, and to avoid things like ice in your drinks if you’re in a country where the water system is questionable.
No matter how fun that vacation might be, it still wreaks havoc on our immune system, which can in turn increase the risk of getting sick. Keep that immune system strong with supplements like vitamin C (Emergen-C packets are great for this) as well as Echinacea, ginger and vitamin E.
Be Aware of Food Contamination
Food-borne illness is one of the leading causes of sickness, and traveling only heightens that risk. Avoid raw foods or fruits and vegetables that don’t have a protective skin, wash all items in clean water, and make sure the hot food you eat is cooked thoroughly.
If workouts and fitness are part of your life at home, it’s important to maintain that schedule when you travel. If your hotel doesn’t have a gym, get outside for a walk, rent bikes or go hiking. It’s also important to get up and move around when you’re on long flights, as sitting for long periods has been known to cause blood clots.
It seems like a no-brainer in this day and age, but wearing sun protection not only keeps you from getting burned, it can help you avoid things like sunstroke or heat exhaustion. Use at least a 50 SPF sunblock and wear hats and long-sleeve shirts in the sun.
Watch for Bug Bites
Mosquitos and other biting bugs are not only an annoyance, they are also carriers of diseases such as dengue fever and malaria. Make sure to investigate beforehand if the area you’re traveling to has any outbreaks, and use bug spray to keep them at bay.
Get Vaccines if Needed
If you’re traveling to a developing country, be sure to get any required vaccines prior to travel. You can check the Centers for Disease Control website for recommended vaccinations or talk to your doctor. You should try to get vaccinated at least 4-12 weeks prior to travel.
Get Your Sleep
Exhaustion causes our immune system to falter, and not getting enough sleep when you travel can leave you susceptible to illness. Try to get as much sleep as possible, and keep yourself on some kind of schedule, even when traveling to different time zones.
Wear a Mask
It might seem a little extreme, but wearing a mask on a plane can actually help minimize your exposure to airborne illnesses such as colds and the flu. If a surgical mask is too much for you, consider a nasal screen, which are nearly invisible and help filter out bacteria and pollens.