The destination is picked, the tickets are purchased and now you’re about to taxi down the runway, waiting for your plane to depart. Just then several coughs ring out in the cabin as the dry overhead air starts pouring out of the vents. That’s when you start to wonder if you’ll be nursing cold medicine instead of tropical drinks this vacation.
Millions of people board planes, cruise ships, buses, and other modes of transportation each and every day. While most people envision bringing home kitschy souvenirs from their vacations or working on their suntans, others acquire a less favorable memento: illness. Thanks to jet lag, recycled air and/or potentially unclean native waters, travelers may be vulnerable to illness on their trips. But that vulnerability doesn’t mean you have to succumb to illness. The following are some effective ways to avoid getting sick while traveling.
Get vaccinated before traveling. Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the U.S. State Department to determine if there are specific vaccinations recommended for travelers visiting your destination. If so, be sure to get vaccinated before departing.
Bring sanitizer along. When packing, stash some hand sanitizer wipes and brush down the arms of chairs, remote controls, seat belt clips, buttons and light switches, and anything else the cleaning crew may have glossed over. Wash your hands frequently as well, as there may be some germs that sneak by.
Avoid tap water. Stick to bottled water when on vacation, especially when traveling to foreign countries. Even if the water isn’t teeming with bacteria, it may throw your stomach for a loop as you adjust. In addition, don’t forget that ice cubes are typically made from tap water, so skip drinks on the rocks.
Avoid uncooked fruit and produce. Fruit and produce may have been rinsed in tap water before being served. Stick to cooked foods instead.
Ensure food is thoroughly cooked. Opt for medium to well-done meats, and be sure that foods are served piping hot. If you are not careful, you may inadvertently expose yourself to E. coli, shigella, salmonella, giardia, campylobacter, cryptosporidia, or cyclospora. Exercise caution when hitting the buffet as well, as that sneeze guard may not keep food completely safe.
Protect against the sun and heat. One way to sideline a trip fast is with an uncomfortable, and even dangerous, sunburn. Use a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 and reapply frequently, especially if you are sweating or going in the water. The Mayo Clinic says that signs of heat exhaustion can include fatigue, dizziness, heavy sweating, and cool moist skin with goose bumps. Increase your fluid intake and get into a cool environment promptly.
While they can’t prevent every illness while traveling, vacationers can go a long way toward safeguarding their health.