Top 10 Ways to Stay Healthy While Traveling

by Dr. Jessie Voigts / Mar 13, 2017 /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

You've invested considerable time, money, and effort on your journey - you sure don't want to get sick! However, people often get sick while traveling, whether from food cleanliness, unfamiliar germs, or lack of sleep. Instead of living like locals, and seeing all the amazing things your destination has to offer, you're sick in bed. However, there are many things you can do to stay healthy while traveling.

Top 10 Ways to Stay Healthy While Traveling

1. Sleep

This is critical - be sure to get as much sleep as possible. You might feel like waking up early and staying up late will get you more exposure to the place where you are at. However, being sick for days and stuck inside won't help. Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, and take naps (under an umbrella, on the beach?) to recharge. If you're flying to a different time zone, be sure to minimize jet lag by sleeping well, eating normally, and adjusting to the new time zone by getting outside as much as possible.

2. Food

No one wants digestive issues! Watch what you eat - from super fatty foods to street foods that might not be up to your standards of cleanliness. I love street food. I also ease into it - maybe one small thing one day, and then wait a day to make sure I can handle it. As well, eat smaller portions so that if you DO get something from it, it's less. Avoid raw fruits and vegetables, unless they have a thick covering (i.e., oranges, bananas, pineapple). Don't hit the salad bar - make sure you eat well-cooked food.

3. Water

Do your research. Check out where water is safe to drink. If in doubt, use bottled water, and skip the ice. Be sure to stay hydrated!

4. Quiet Times

Whether it is daily meditation, or spending quiet time in nature, be sure to build some down time into your daily schedule. Find a park and sit and watch. Perch by the beach and watch the waves. Watch the sunsets together. This quiet time will be a place where you can slow down, NOT be a tourist, and breathe again.

Soothing Water

Soothing Water

Soothing Water, River Tay, Scotland

Soothing Water, River Tay, Scotland

Sunset, Ireland

Sunset, Ireland

5. Plan Ahead

Get all your shots, and check the CDC travel health page for advisories.

Take both your prescription medicines and the prescription, in case you need a refill. Take your daily vitamins.

Also pack a small medical kit that includes bandages, antiseptic cleansers and hand cleaners, antibiotic cream, scissors, fever control and pain meds, motion sickness pills (this is a big one for me, since I get motion sickness by even watching videos of car rides and ship adventures), allergic reaction medicine, insect repellant, insect bite cream, sunscreen, antidiarrheal medicine, water sterilization tablets, heartburn and antacid medicine, syringes and needles, thermometer, cough and cold medicine, and whatever else your family (or your destination) needs. It sounds big. It could save a life! Be sure to pack it in your checked bag and not in your carryon.

Be sure to get Travel Health Insurance.  It's worth more than you pay for it, in case anything happens. If nothing happens? You've spend a little bit for peace of mind.

6. Be Careful with Animals

A random squirrel bite could have big implications for your health. What can wild birds or bats do? For that matter, dogs and cats can carry disease. And for more exotic animals, be very careful. If you do get bit or scratched, wash immediately with hot water and soap, and then seek medical attention.

Do turtles carry germs?

Do turtles carry germs?

7. Exercise

Be sure to get enough exercise to keep you healthy! Walk, bike, swim - you'll not only be seeing your destination up close, but you will find more than you will by riding in a car (or the train). Join a pickup soccer game in a park - you never know who you'll befriend. Get out and walk, climb up the mountains (well, as you are able) - and catch the view. 

Whitewater rafting, Oregon

Whitewater rafting, Oregon

Swimming, Lake Michigan

Swimming, Lake Michigan

Walking, Gap of Dunloe, Ireland

Walking, Gap of Dunloe, Ireland

8. Wash your Hands

Do I really need to say this? Yes! Bathrooms, door handles, bike handles, bus or train railings, elevator buttons, etc. - all filled with germs that are unfamiliar to you. A quick wash with hot water and soap is a GOOD thing.

9. Find Local Medical Professionals 

Before you go, prepare - just in case! You can find health care professionals via International Society of Travel Medicine, or join the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers. Ask expats and locals where the best care is. When my husband tore a tendon in his foot in Scotland, our neighbors told us about the best doctor near us. We made an appointment, and got high-quality care, quickly and inexpensively. If all else fails, contact your country's Consulate for help.

10. Utilize Local Alternative Medical Treatments

I always search out the local alternative medical treatments, including massage, acupuncture, hot springs, the salt water in the ocean, and homeopathic remedies (especially for jetlag). Ask the pharmacist if there is something to help with a problem you might be experiencing. Taking a swim in the ocean can clean out cuts and infections, we learned in Ireland. We also learned of other medicine for when I ran out of my sleep meds (lack of preparation! ACK!), and some healthy local things to eat for allergies.

Pharmacy, Ireland

Pharmacy, Ireland (inside, below)

Pharmacy, Ireland

11. Yes, a bonus tip! LAUGH!

Laughter and joy do wonders for your immune system - and your mental state. Enjoy your travels, let the annoyances of the road and being in a different place slide right off your back. Laughter IS the best medicine!

Laughter!

Laughter

 

 

Do all you can to maximize your health, and you will have enjoyable journeys. Live it up!

What are the best ways you stay healthy on the road?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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