Think of all the planning, saving and daydreaming you’ve done for that trip of a lifetime. You managed to sweet-talk your boss into giving you the time off. After all this effort, the last thing you want is to wander the cobblestone streets of Paris with a stuffy nose or be glued to the bathroom in Bali dreaming of better days.
Staying healthy can be a real challenge while vacationing. All that time on planes, trains, buses and your own two feet is bound to take a toll on your energy — and your immune system. Here are a few tips and tricks to keep your health intact so you feel like a rock star on your big adventure.
Ever notice that the air on planes is extra-dry? Dehydration makes you vulnerable to germs, and your weary mucus membranes will struggle to fend off the microbes spewing from your neighbor’s sneezes. To iron up your defenses, drink lots of water, and avoid dehydrating drinks like alcohol and coffee, no matter how tempting they are on long flights. Opt for a soothing herbal tea instead, and slip into dreams about the rolling beaches awaiting you.
When you travel to developing countries, it’s a good idea to avoid drinking tap water. It might be fine for locals, but the bacteria strains found in tap water vary drastically in different part of the world, and your system may not take kindly to something it’s not used to.
Simple solution: Drink bottled water, and ensure the seal is intact. Don’t eat food washed in tap water, like raw produce from street vendors, and avoid brushing your teeth from the sink and putting ice cubes in your drinks. For a more environmentally friendly fix, get yourself a water bottle with a built-in filter.
Eating like a local is cool, but you know what’s not so fun? Traveler’s diarrhea. To avoid exposing yourself to E. coli and Salmonella, make sure anything you consume is fresh, well-cooked (again, avoid raw food) and served hot. To minimize risk, look for signs of good hygiene practices. Is this a clean cooking environment? Is cash handled by the same person handling food? Are the cooks wearing gloves? Is food stored properly?
If you always wanted to try a unique local dish, go for it. Just be mindful, and acclimate your palette by introducing new things to your system a little at a time.
The jet lag, red-eye flights, stress and excitement of a voyage can make it difficult to rest. Lack of sleep can weaken the immune system, making the body vulnerable to infection and head colds. According to a 2015 study available in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, participants who got less than six hours of sleep over a week turned out to be four times more likely to come down with the common cold than those who slept more than seven hours.
As basic as it sounds, handwashing is crucial to infection control. So, listen to your mom from all those years ago, and spend at least 30 seconds soaping and lathering. If you don’t always have access to water and soap, carry hand gel.
Before you embark, check out the recommended vaccinations for your region get them done far ahead of your trip so there’s adequate time to ensure you don’t have an adverse reaction. Plus, Tetanus shots hurt, and your shoulder will be sore for a few days afterward — not something you want while your toting your adventure pack around.
At best, mosquito bites are annoying. At worst, they can transmit a slew of diseases, none of which will make your life or your travels any better. Protect yourself by using organic mosquito repellent, covering your skin and avoiding hanging out near bodies of water at twilight.
Even with all the preparation in the world, sickness sometimes just happens. So, as one final tip, don’t forget your pills. You’d think finding your regular over-the-counter medications in other countries would be easy, but believe it or not, not every country has DayQuil. And staring at a bottle in a different language wondering if it’ll kill you or not is a stress you don’t need. Be sure to pack a few of your favorite go-to meds in your carry-on.
Last but not least, don’t stress: A little extra care when it comes to your health is all you need to ensure you’re in top shape for your journey.