You’ve just touched down in the country you’ve been dreaming about visiting for the last couple of months. You’ve obsessed over the Instagram pictures, planned and reorganized your agenda for the entire trip, and mapped out all the restaurants and markets you’re going to shop at. Now you’re finally here and full of excitement. Out of nowhere though, you find yourself sniffling and a migraine you can’t ignore. Oh hell, this is not happening, I cannot be getting sick.
Unfortunately, getting sick while traveling abroad can happen. Traveling abroad can be more of an adjustment on our body than we like to admit. It could be as simple as adjusting to a temperature change, air quality, time difference, foods, etc. These are all factors that can be the reasoning behind that small sniffle you’ve developed after getting off the plane. Trust, throughout my time traveling and living in China I have gotten sick on more than one occasion. From the pollution, China’s minimal hygienic practices, drastic weather change; all of which have taken a toll on my body. Being sick isn’t fun, especially when you’ve been planning this amazing adventure for the last year or so. So here are some ways to minimize your chances of being sick and how to deal.
1. Be patient with your body.
This is something I’ve had to learn the hard way. When I say be patient with your body I mean, understand that your body may need time to adjust to all the sudden changes. This could mean after your 8-24 hour flight going on a midnight scuba dive might be something you’ll have to postpone until the next day. You just got off a long flight so take this time for some rest & relaxation! Jet lag is not something to play with. Use this time to take a nap, check out the other tours or activities that your hotel is offering and all the amenities they have to offer. Massage, anyone? Your body will tell you what you’re capable and not capable of doing. Make sure to listen or you could end up under the weather during your entire trip.
2. Get the necessary vaccines for the country you’re visiting.
I am not a fan of needles but I am quick to get whatever shots or pills necessary for my travels. Being up to speed with your routine shots and vaccinations for the country you’re visiting is imperative. A cold is one thing, but Yellow fever, Malaria, and Typhoid are another. Make sure you check what vaccines are required for the country you’re planning to visit. You can check out the CDC|Travelers Health website to find out what shots are required and clinics near you that distribute the vaccines. Don’t wait until the week or day before to take care of this. Sometimes doctors require you to take pills weeks before your trip to make sure it’s in your system. Some insurance plans cover the majority, if not the complete cost of the vaccinations, but make sure to double check with yours. Make your health a priority and don’t procrastinate.
3. Get plenty of sleep.
When traveling abroad, we all want to maximize our time to enjoy the trip. Enjoy your time, party, eat a lot, stay up watch the sunset, but please make time to sleep. It is vital for your health. Lack of sleep will weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to disease. I’ve on many occasions gotten a minimal amount of sleep and was exhausted throughout my travels. Trust, you won’t enjoy the boat tour if you’re sleeping the whole time. Although it’s tempting to squeeze in as many activities as possible, make sure to prioritize sleep so that the quality of those experiences goes up. Your body will thank you.
4. Be cognizant of what you’re eating and drinking.
Food poisoning is of the devil and not something you want on your trip. Sometimes a little tummy trouble is unavoidable when eating foods you are not accustomed to. There are some things you can do to avoid it. Be cognizant of what you’re eating and how your food is prepared. Especially the adventurous eaters among us who want to try everything on the menu. Every street food cart and restaurant doesn’t have your stomach’s best interest. I have been to local markets in Cambodia where it’s 88⁰ F and raw meat is just sitting out for long periods of time before being prepared to be eaten. If it doesn’t look right, trust your judgment on if you should pass or not. My general rule of thumb for street food is if there is a long line or crowd of local people there, it’s a safe bet. In terms of restaurants, I like to check with hotel staff, locals about restaurant suggestions.
Please also, be aware of the water. I’ve traveled to countries where I could drink the water and others where I exclusively drank bottled water. Make sure to check online if the water is okay to drink. If you’re still unsure, just stick with bottled water. Your hotel and surrounding corner stores should have plenty for you to buy.
5. Bring medication from home.
One rule of thumb I have when traveling is to always bring over the counter medicines from home. My mother would always bring a small bag of medicine when we travel and now I do. I always carry a small to medium bag filled with over the counter medicine. My bag typically includes: BC powder, Ibuprofen, Anti-Diarrhea, allergy medication, Benadryl. Typically, I only bring a couple of each. There’s no need to bring a whole bottle of Ibuprofen. These medicines cover the basic illnesses, and help alleviate symptoms that could have you sick your entire trip. These are only things that I bring; but your bag could have less or more (depending on your specific health needs). Trust, you will be thankful you brought it.
Being sick during your trip abroad is not something anyone would ever want. These quick and easy steps will not only help to minimize your possibility of being sick, but also be prepared if the unfortunate happens. Staying healthy will help you have a more pleasurable travel experience that you and your travel buddies deserve. Stay healthy and happy travels!
What tips do you have for staying healthy while traveling to new places? Let us know in the comments!