How to stay healthy on the road
Friends often ask me how to organize an independent trip and what things might come in handy in case of illness during the travel. You can (and probably should) buy travel insurance. It is a good idea wherever you go. But for the most part, there are simple tips that will preserve your health, prevent diseases and food poisoning.
KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN
World Health Organization warns that hepatitis A also called an infectious disease or dirty hands disease is caused by a virus that infects liver cells. Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A is transferred by water and during close contacts. It means that secretions of sick person contain billions of viral particles that can pollute water, get on your hands, fruits and vegetables, seafood. By drinking infected water or food (especially low heat-treated seafood) virus infiltrates the intestines, and after it hits liver.
To avoid troubles with this, it is necessary to follow basic rules of prevention:
- Wash your hands with soap after visiting WC and before eating, after returning home from public places
- Avoid buying street meals if you suspect food might be prepared in poor sanitary conditions
- Drink bottled water while on the road. And check the seal of bottle twice before using it. If you unsure about the quality of tap water, insure yourself by boiling it for 5-10 minutes. This is enough to kill hepatitis A virus
- Wash your fruits and vegetables, rinse with boiling water. Fruits should be peeled if possible
- Don’t neglect thermal treatment, it will help you avoid not only hepatitis A, but also many other intestinal infections. While heat-treated products must be kept for at least 10 minutes at temperature above 70°C. The same way is also suitable for reheating already cooked food
In some cases vaccinations are the best decision. Moreover, there are countries that would require a specific list of vaccinations traveller must have before arriving. Don’t ignore the recommended vaccination that should be done before visiting the country. In addition, it is poor practice to attend the last minute vaccination, as vaccination against certain diseases (such as hepatitis) should be inoculated for multiple times at certain interval.
Some Asian and African countries are in the risk zone of malaria infection. For malaria prevention it is recommended to take special drugs. There is a secret here – it is a bit cheaper to purchase such drugs upon arrival. But surely you should know the relevant prices and certain shops to get it.
AVOID BINGE EATING
One of the pleasant memories about traveling overseas is the local cuisine. Surely, any meal is much tastier when being cooked in country of origin, where it has been known for a really long time. But you shouldn’t get carried away and lose the sense of proportion. After all, Asian cuisine, fro example, usually abounds with large number of spices and flavourings. You are surely welcome to degust any of national meals, just keep in mind sticking to healthy food and balanced diet.
If your stomach is sensitive, make sure you switch to new and unfamiliar food slowly.
Try out new meals while adhering to familiar food. Usually indigestion occurs when you eat too much or instantly switch to an unfamiliar food. This can cause bloating, diarrhea or nausea. It is therefore recommended to introduce new products in portions. Mind the common sense, do not overeat.
An active lifestyle helps preventing diseases, not only while travelling, but also in everyday life. Thanks to exercises, body gets hardened, it increases immunity and the ability to resist viral infections. Certain types of exercises stimulates deeper respiration processes. As a result, the lungs expand its capacity, work more efficiently and perfectly clean your body from a considerable amount of carbon dioxide. Also active sports, trigger the circulation processes, so blood saturates cells with oxygen and other nutrients more effectively and remove metabolic products from the body.
Traveling should not become an excuse to stop training. Immunity works at 100% only in case you keep yourself fit. Therefore, make sure spending at least half an hour a day jogging or swimming. Look for a gym or free playground nearby while staying in a hotel, it would greatly facilitate exercise selection. Another nice thing about exercising in the gym is that you may find new friends.
PROTECT YOURSELF FROM THE SUN AND MOSQUITOES
Sunstroke or overheating can ruin any vacation plans. It is necessary to think everything through in advance to avoid this happen if your destination point is a tropical country. Children are more vulnerable to sunstroke and overheating as well as red haired people and those having freckles or moles. Sunbath should be avoided by those who has skin cancer or taking drugs. To protect your skin from sunburn, dermatologists recommend the following:
- Avoid sunbathing from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses.
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, as due to high temperature and high humidity our bodies lose a lot of water.
- Do not forget to use sunscreen. Consider sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater.
Even more responsibly should be approached picking of insect repellent. At best they will simply annoy you with itching and irritating stings but at worst they may transmit a wide variety of diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and dengue. Even if you are in a low risk region, it is necessary to protect yourself from stings, that are quite itching afterwards. Adhere to these simple tips:
- Shut the doors and windows tightly while sleeping
- Wear long-sleeved clothing or get covered with a blanket
- Use permethrin-coated nets if possible
- Apply insect repellent to exposed skin. Repellents containing DEET (diethyltoluamide), considered to be the most effective drugs used to repel mosquitoes and other bloodsucking insects. However, DEET application should be implemented with caution, as high concentration of this substance may result in poisoning. For adult person, it is recommended to use insect repellent containing 30-35% diethyltoluamide, for children – 6-10%. When using repellent, make sure it is evenly distributed over the skin to ensure complete protection from mosquitoes. Children are not recommended to apply DEET to the hands, as it may result in accidental ingestion or eye contact
- Try to avoid strong odours when outside. Mosquitoes are attracted with strong odours, so they opt for certain persons in the group. Also, it is not recommended to use strong smelling perfume or deodorant while outdoor. Mosquitoes are also attracted by the smell of sweat, so mind taking a shower. In addition, try to avoid strong-smelling shampoo or soap to avoid attracting mosquitoes
- Stay away from areas of stagnant water, wetlands and forests, because these places are ideal for mosquito breeding
- Take vitamin B1 and garlic. 100 mg of vitamin B1 per day can help you protect yourself from mosquito stings. It makes your skin allocate a certain smell that repels mosquitoes but it imperceptible to others. Garlic consumption has the same effect
By sticking to these simple tips you may significantly reduce the risk of catching infection overseas. Before the trip you should mind all details starting from broad-brimmed hat to antiseptic hand gel. You should also consider the structure of first-aid kit that should always be at hand:
- Medicines for Headaches
- Antidiarrheal Medicines
- Medicines for high body temperature (fever)
- Broad spectrum antibiotic for oral use
- Anti-allergic and antiseptics
- Repellents (ointment and aerosol)
- Scissors, tweezers, bandages, bactericidal court plaster
Remember these are the general health tips, they are not a replacement for consultation with your personal physician, when personal health issues can be discussed based on your medical history.