How to Stay Healthy On the Road
My readers and friends often ask me how to organize an independent trip and how to stay healthy on the road. The thing I have learned after 10 years on the road is that your health is your most valueable asset. This is exactly what I keep in mind when I close the door behind and leave for the airport. Visiting other countries and communicating with other people (especially from other cultures) can put real pressure on your immune system.
It really doesn’t matter whether you’re going to see the nomads of the Kazakh Steppe or enjoy a two week vacation in Belize. Getting sick in any foreign country is the worst thing ever. Especially if you’re traveling long-term.
You might be surprised but there is a one-size-fits-all answer. Take care of your immune system because it is your natural shield against infection and bacteria. You should also never forget about travel insurance. Getting a good plan for your next trip is always a good idea. But for the most part, the tips below can help you to stay healthy on the road, prevent illness and food poisoning.
1. KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN
Wash you hands! Do you remember hearing your mom tell you this when you were a kid? Probably, yes. It is even more important to keep your hands clear when travelling. According to World Health Organization contaminated food, water and poor hygiene can cause hepatitis A infection. No big deal? Only when you maintain a high level of personal hygiene. Soap is something I never skimp on when traveling. Make hand washing a healthy habit. Always do this before eating, especially if you have been holding railings on public transportation. I know it can be hard to find a bathroom or kitchen in the middle of nowhere, that is why keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer with you is always a good idea.
Just to Sum Up the Tips Above:
- Wash your hands with soap after visiting toilet and before eating;
- Avoid eating street food if you suspect it has been prepared in poor sanitary conditions;
- Stick to bottled water when visiting tropical countries in Africa and Asia. Always double check the seal of the bottle before using it. If you unsure about the quality of tap water, boil it for 5-10 minutes. This is enough to kill hepatitis A virus;
- Wash your fruits and vegetables, rinse with boiling water. Peel your fruit if possible;
- Don’t disregard a thermal treatment. It will help you avoid not only hepatitis A but also many other gastro-intestinal infections. Heat-treated food must be kept for at least 10 minutes at temperature or above 70°C.
2. GET VACCINATED
Dependent on the country or countries you are visiting, getting vaccinated can be your best bet. There are three categories of vaccinations – routine vaccinations, the ones that you should already have because most people get these throughout childhood. Recommended vaccinations, the ones you should not disregard when going to a country with vaccination requirements. Required vaccinations, the ones that you should have in order to enter the country.
You will notice that recommendations can change from time to time, so it is important to do your own research berfore you go. Some of the travel vaccinations are not cheap, so once again, you should consult a physician before getting vaccinated. As for me, I disregard many recommendations and sometimes avoid visiting countries requiring vaccinations. But hey, do you know that Thailand entails a lower risk and recommended vaccines include Hepatitis A and B, influenza and typhoid? Whatever your choice is, is up to you whether you ready to take that risk.
3. AVOID BINGE EATING
Local cuisine is probably one of most pleasant memories when traveling abroad. Of course, any meal is much tastier when being cooked in a country of origin. Especially when the recipes have endured for centuries and come down to us virtually unchanged. However, you shouldn’t get carried away and lose the sense of proportion. Asian cuisine, for example, usually abounds with spices and flavorings.
You are surely welcome to try any of national dishes, 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. Discover a new food
4. STAY ACTIVE
Living an active lifestyle helps to prevent disease and promote health. It is true not only during the trip but in everyday life too. Exercising regularly makes your body stronger, boost the immune system and increases resistance to viral infections. Certain types of exercises increases your breathing rate. As result, can train your lungs to increase their capacity, they work more efficiently and perfectly clean your body from a considerable amount of carbon dioxide. Physical exercises help blood saturate cells with oxygen and other nutrients and eliminate metabolic waste from your body.
Traveling should not become your exercise excuse. Immune system works at its maximum only when you keep it fit. Make sure to exercise at least 30 minutes per day by jogging or swimming. Look for a gym or free playground near your hotel (or even in it). Another nice thing about working out in a gym is that you can find new friends. I’m an avid hiker and always choose to walk to my destinations rather than taking cabs as long as I can reach them on foot.
5. PROTECT YOURSELF FROM THE SUN
Sunstroke or overheating can ruin any trip. It is necessary to think everything through in advance to avoid it from happening if you’re traveling to tropical destination. Children are more vulnerable than adults to sunstroke and overheating. It also true for red haired people and those having freckles or moles. Avoid sunbathing if you have skin cancer or taking drugs. To prevent a sunburn, dermatologists recommend the following steps:
- 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 water to rehydrate yourself. Due to high temperature and high humidity your body loses a lot of water.
- Do not forget to put sunscreen. Consider sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater.
6. PROTECT YOURSELF FROM MOSQUITOES
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 steps:
- Use tightly fitting mosquito screens on windows and doors at night;
- Wear long-sleeved clothing or get covered with a blanket;
- Use permethrin-coated nets if possible;
- Everyone knows how irritating moscuito bites can be. Having a bug repellent is essential when traveling to an area where malaria and dengue fever are particularly prevalent. Bug spray containing high level of DEET (diethyltoluamide), is one of the most effective ingredients to repel mosquitoes and other bloodsucking insects. When using repellent, make sure it is evenly distributed over the skin to ensure complete protection from mosquitoes. Apply DEET based spray with caution because high concentration of this product may result in poisoning. I would strongly recommend consulting with your doctor before using it;
- Try to reduce strong odours when while outdoors such as body odor, perfume or deodorant. Strong odours attract mosquitoes, so they opt for certain people in group. I usually take a shower before hiking and do my best to avoid strong-smelling shampoo or soap;
- Stay away from stagnant water, wetlands and flooded forests, because such places are ideal for mosquito breeding;
- Take vitamin B1 and garlic. 100 mg of vitamin B1 per day can protect you from mosquito bites. It makes your skin allocate a certain smell that repels mosquitoes but imperceptible to others. Eating garlic has pretty the same effect
By sticking to these simple steps you may significantly reduce the risk of catching infection abroad. Before the trip you should keep in mind all details starting from broad-brimmed hat to antiseptic hand gel. You should also create your travel 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 on how to stay healthy on the road, they are not a replacement for consultation with your personal doctor. Discuss your personal health issues according to your health records.