How to Stay Healthy When Traveling Abroad

austrian-christmas-market-vacationTraveling is exciting, but whether you’re organizing an active vacation or a relaxing trip to the beach, plan ahead with an eye toward travel health. Knowing what to pack and other ways to prepare can ensure trip safety. Healthy travel also means taking certain precautions once you arrive at your destination. Remember that protecting your health is always important, even when you’re on a carefree getaway.

Travel Immunizations

If you’re embarking on an international journey, the right immunizations are essential for healthy travel to protect you from diseases, many of which are not threats within the United States. The exact vaccinations necessary will depend on the country you are visiting, but you may need shots o promote travel health. Schedule an appointment with your doctor well in advance of your trip — a minimum of six weeks — in case any needed immunization requires more than one shot and one visit.

Save Money on Travel Immunizations

  1. Talk to your family doctor to seek advice and answer questions about immunizations: why they are needed, where to go for them, location information for the nearest health department/clinic, prescriptions needed, any medical issues, etc.
  2. Shop around for prices. The local health department may be less expensive than your personal physician. Special travel clinics may be the most expensive. A doctor in your church may be able to get the vaccines and give the shots at a reduced price.
  3. Begin the immunization process in plenty of time to avoid taking them all at once and to give yourself time to recover before you travel.
  4. Record current travel immunizations in a note book or journal.

Know Your Oversee Medical Coverage

Know what the overseas medical coverage package covers. Determine what coverage is available for expenses incurred with an injury and/or illness during your travel. What expenses would you be responsible for if something happened that may result in medically necessary emergency evacuation (if your condition warrants immediate transportation from the facility where you are located to the nearest adequate facility where treatment can be obtained) or repatriation.

Pack a Travel First Aid Kit

To ensure trip safety, packing a first-aid kit is a must. Where you’re traveling will determine what you should include. But we’ve compiled a list of must-haves for your personal travel first aid kit.

Personal First Aid Kit Essentials

  • Immodium tablets and Pepto Bismol
  • Band-aids and Neosporin
  • Anti-bacterial wet wipes
  • Ibuprofen/Tylenol
  • Sunscreen
  • Hand sanitizer and wipes
  • Hydro-cortisone Cream
  • Anti-histamine (especially important for flights)
  • Personal medications in marked prescription bottles

Don’t Get Sick on the Plane

Healthy travel can be a challenge when you’re flying to your destination surrounded by coughing travelers. Cabin air can trap germs, and if you’re sandwiched between people sneezing on you, it’s hard to escape them. For travel health, wash your hands frequently or use a hand sanitizing gel if you can’t get to the lavatory. Try to keep your hands away from your mouth, and ask your seat mate to cover her mouth or nose if she feels a cough or sneeze coming on.

  1. Be Active
    Another risk during air travel is developing leg clots or deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It’s also known as “economy-class syndrome” — a condition often brought about during long flights. Periods of immobility increase the risk of DVTs because sitting and leg room are cramped.
  2. Bolster you Immune System
    For Laurie Steelsmith, a licensed naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist who practices in Honolulu, it’s very important for people to protect their immune systems while they’re airborne. “You’re in a closed environment with really dry air and a lot of ill people from all over the world,” she says. “You’re a walking open door.”
  3. Wash Up
    The most common way for you to be infected with a disease is by touching a contaminated surface, then transferring the germ to your eyes, nose, or mouth.This is true whether you’re in an airplane or any other public space, and is the reason why washing your hands, with plain soap and water, is so important to reduce your risk of contracting an infectious disease.Because the water on airplanes may not be the most pure, it’s recommended that you take the extra step of sanitizing your hands with a waterless hand sanitizer after washing them. If you opt for this step, be sure to use a chemical-free natural brand. We particularly like Burt’s Bees spray.

Beat Jet Lag

If you’re traveling far, you will have jet lag. Upon arriving, take a walk to get some exercise

before laying down to bed if it is a reasonable hour, or exercise in your room. The goal is to increase your heart rate, which help your body and mind beat normal jet lag symptoms.

Typical symptoms of jet lag include:

  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Disorientation and fuzziness
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Sleeping patterns disturbed
  • Dehydration – headaches, sore throat, etc.

Drinking lots of water, staying somewhat mobile during the days, and trying to force a new sleeping schedule should help in coping with jet lag.

Traveling long distances can leave your body confused if you change time zones. For healthy travel and to avoid jet lag, try to follow your new time zone as quickly as possible. Exposing yourself to sunlight can help your body adjust, and practice healthy travel tips like getting regular exercise, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding alcohol to ward off jet lag.

Don’t Eat the Take-Out

Your travel health can be put in jeopardy when eating abroad, especially by eating improperly cooked foods. Only eat at clean, reputable restaurants, never from a street vendor, and make sure that all foods are completely and thoroughly cooked to kill parasites and prevent traveler’s diarrhea. When it comes time to eat, do not eat lettuce or other green leafy vegetables.

The general rule of thumb is eat only what is cooked or can be peeled. Only drink and brush your teeth with boiled or bottled water! In restaurants, inconspicuously (so not to offend hosts) wipe off any water from plates or glasses. And of course, be careful not to ingest any water during showers.

Have Fun

We hope our advice didn’t scare you. Traveling abroad is fun! But taking a few simple steps before leaving and while away will help you return rested and refreshed!