Welcome to Passport Health’s holiday blog series, “The Twelve Health Tips of the Holiday Season.” Using the structure of the classic holiday song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” we will be looking at twelve issues that holiday travelers are likely to face and providing sage advice on how to best overcome them.
The classic holiday tune begins with ‘Twelve drummers drumming.’ There is little worse than being on vacation and feeling that drumming and throbbing in your head that portends the onset of an illness. Here are Passport Health’s twelve tips to overcoming (and avoiding) sickness while traveling.
Prepare before you go
The first key to healthful travel anywhere is to make sure you have all the required and recommended travel vaccinations, medications, and speciality travel health supplies before you depart. Tropical travel may well mean you need malaria pills or a Yellow Fever vaccine. No matter the destination, it is always wise to pack a travel sized first-aid kit so you are prepared in the event of an emergency.
Getting vaccinated before your trip is the very best way to avoid serious illness, and a Passport Health travel specialist can help you figure out the exact immunizations you need for travel depending on the locale you will be visiting. Even if you are just traveling domestically, be sure to get your annual flu shot, especially because the busy holiday travel season will put you in touch with more people (and potential carriers of the flu virus) than normal.
Get traveler’s insurance
Traveler’s insurance can make a world of difference in the event something serious happens overseas. Hospitals in some countries require patients to demonstrate an ability to pay which can be time consuming and expensive. Traveler’s insurance services can help avoid this hassle and cost. If your travel plans tend to the extreme, consider a plan with evacuation insurance as well.
Wash your hands
Washing your hands, especially before eating, is one of the simplest and most effective health measures you can take. Some of the most common travel health problems, including the flu, are spread by dirty hands. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before every meal or at the very least use hand sanitizer.
Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is important! Even when on vacation, it is important to have at least eight hours of sleep each night, and it is generally suggested to try to keep a sleep pattern that is similar to your normal schedule. Insufficient sleep and serious changes in circadian rhythm can compromise your immune system and could lead to illness. Do your best to always get a good night’s sleep.
Sun poisoning is a very common illness, but it is also very preventable. Remember, sunblock is a must, and not just in tropical destinations! Whether you are on the beach, on the slopes, or touring around town, be sure to protect yourself. Bad sunburns can easily ruin a trip and can lead to significant health problems later on, including cancer. The American Melanoma Foundation suggests using a sunblock with at least 15 SPF and recommends using a ‘broad-spectrum’ formula that can protect against multiple forms of ultraviolet radiation.
Learn key phrases
If you are in a country in which a different language is spoken, having a phrasebook or knowing a few words can be critical, especially if you are having a health issue. Being able to ask where a restroom is could save you from embarrassment, and being able to ask where a hospital is could save your life.
Pack your prescriptions
If you take prescription medications, be sure to bring an ample supply with you, and it is usually best to pack your medications in their original bottles. Also, basic, over the counter medications may not be available in your destination, so pack plenty of these in your travel first aid kit as well.
If you do get sick, don’t be afraid to change your plans. Sometimes it can be better to take a day off and rest rather than risk your health by pushing through the onset of an illness. Take it easy, and try to get over whatever it is that you have come down with so that you can enjoy the remainder of your trip.
Water is key to overcoming any illness. Be sure to drink sufficient amounts of water (potentially with re-hydration salts added), especially if you are suffering from any forms of food poisoning, fever, or diarrhea. Proper hydration will help you to feel better more quickly.
Check your luggage
If you are still sick when you are traveling home, or even between stops on your itinerary, check your larger carry-on bags. Although this can be expensive, it can also be worth the price. Hauling extra bags can be downright grueling while sick, so let the airline do the heavy lifting for you to remove an additional stressor from your travel.
Do your best to avoid stress before, during, and after your trip. Stress can harm your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness. Try not to sweat the small stuff, take deep breaths, and find ways to smile through the challenging situations. After all, those “challenges” are likely to become great stories when you return! With a relaxed attitude, you will surely enjoy your vacation more and stay healthier throughout.
Have you found anything to be particularly helpful when traveling with sickness? Comment below or on our Facebook page to share your story.