Who wants to get sick or hurt while traveling…. answer: no one! But, there they are, those little germs and viruses waiting to latch on to the happy, unsuspecting, fun-loving traveler. While you’re admiring the sites and trying the local treats to eat, there are germs and viruses out there waiting to move in. But…….There is something we can do to cut down on the likelihood of being stricken with an illness that takes all of the fun out of our vacation. Let’s take a look:
On the airplane
- Stay hydrated all through the flight by sipping water or tea. Sips taken over the length of the flight keep you more hydrated than one or two big gulps during the flight.
- If you drink warm water or tea, you can breath the mist into your nasals; and this helps keep your mucous membranes working to keep germs out
- Drinking coffee and alcohol can dehydrate you
- The air onboard is recycled and the longer the flight the more suspectible you are to airborne germs and virus and the more precautions you need to take.
Keep your hands clean
- Your hands are the most consistent point of initial contact with germs – cold, flu and others!
- Your hands touch all the hard surfaces when traveling: the armrest, seat backs, tray tables, remote controls, headsets, bathroom doors and the list can go on. Each of these surfaces has germs and lots of them.
- Washing your hands with hot water and soap helps to prevent harmful microorganisms from transferring to you
- Wash hands before all meals. This is especially true when dinning in high density area, i.e., cruise ships, food courts, terminals.
- Sanitized hand wipes are great for in-between hand washing when traveling (and day-to-day running around). But, they are not a replacement for good, thorough hand washing.
Take your vitamins & prescription medicines
- This is true for vitamin supplements as well as ensuring you eat healthy meals filled with natural vitamins. Make sure you meals include the daily recommend amounts of vegetables, fruits and protein and carbs.
- The data may differ depending on who you ask when talking about vitamin C supplements. Some people say it is the answer to keeping you cold and flu free. Others say there is no remarkable difference in taking it or not. I take them because I feel they work. You decide, and if not in a supplement, make sure you get vitamin C and D in your daily diet.
- Remember your prescription meds and pack them in your carry-on.
Get you immunizations and vaccinations
- Check with your personal doctor and/or the public health department.
- The public health department has information about outbreaks and health concerns around the world. They can answer questions and provide guidance
- The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) provide information about outbreaks, public health concerns and guidance on traveling safely to areas around the globe.
- Epidemics and illnesses abroad are constantly changing and the best online resources for overseas health and travel information will be the CDC and you state, and local public health departments
- Visit the CDC’s web site: www.cdc.gov
Drinking Water Safety
The most common cause of water-borne illness is bacteria, such as E.coli, cholera and salmonella. In many cases, we become ill because the pathogens in the water are foreign to our immune systems while local residents have become adapted to the water supply and can drink it without any problems.
- You can protect yourself by avoiding local tap water and drinking bottle water
- Bottle water is safe, yet make sure the seal is tamper-proof and the seal has not been broken
- Ask your hotel or tour guide for a reliable local brand of bottled water
- Know the risks before you go. Your local health department and the CDC can provide this information
- Boiling tap water generally kills most micro-organisms and you can also purchase a good water filter and purification tablets (stow the tablets in your carry-on bag)
- Do not think it’s just less developed countries with water supply challenges; can be concerns in developed areas too.
- In addition to bottled water, you are usually safe drinking beverages that are bottled and canned, i.e., soft drinks, beer, wine and juice. Also, boiled water drinks such as coffee and tea.
What should I eat
- Choose restaurants, meals and snacks from places that are clean. A good sign can be crowds. A crowded restaurant can indicate the food not only taste good, but people are not getting ill. Of course this is just a tip and not an absolute.
- Use social media as a way to ask where the great places to eat are located in the cities you are traveling to.
- The CDC has a great app named “Can I Eat This?” It provides great guidance and information about many countries. And….It’s free!
- With all things, it is up to us to make responsible decisions about how we conduct ourselves when traveling. The best tip is to do your own research and make clear decisions about what we drink and eat. If it doesn’t look, smell or taste “right” do not eat it. I believe it is always better to error on the side of being safe than sorry.
- Trying local dishes can be a great adventure and way to immerse yourself in the culture. While I believe in sharing cultural experiences and having a bit of adventure with local foods, it’s also important to not feel pressured to try foods or drinks that you don’t feel comfortable with. If you are invited to dinner at the home of a friend when traveling, keep in mind there may be items you are not familiar with. In some cultures it can be considered very rude to not try a dish. Consider this when accepting the invitation and prepare yourself for a way to try dishes or decline in a gracious manner.
- If you have allergies ask what is in a dish to ensure you are staying clear of items that will cause an allergic reaction. It is a good idea to travel with over the counter meds like Benadryl. I once had an allergic reaction to Bone fish in Hawaii. I didn’t know I was allergic before having the fish and made a quick stop to purchase Benadryl to stop the itching. I now travel with several tablets… just in case.
All in all, traveling is safe and the best way to open your mind and your heart to the big beautiful world we live in. Plan and prepare for a fun and safe trip, and you will come home with great memories and lots of photos …. those are the things the we can share and cherish for a lifetime.
www.cdc.gov (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
www.phdistrict2.org (Hall County Georgia Public Health Department – Travel Clinic)
www.who.org (World Health Organization)
Do you have other tips? Please share!