Affordable Travel Guide to How to Avoid Getting Sick When You Go Abroad

Preventative Measures to Ensure a Healthy Holiday

How to Avoid Getting Sick When You Go Abroad

Your stomach is accustomed to the diet you feed it day in and day out; even a trip to a local restaurant for dinner can upset that balance. It can be much worse when you travel, especially to places where water is not as safe as it is at home, or foods are handled with less attention to safety regulations (if there are any). Doctors tell us that most travelers who venture out of their own neighborhoods have some sort of reaction or sickness as a result; as we know, flying in airplanes appears to make us more susceptible to colds and flu, thanks to cramped conditions and close quarters with other passengers.

Research Proves It

In a recent report by CBC News in Canada, Toronto-based Dr. Jay Keystone, from the Medisys Travel Health and Immunization Clinic, cited statistics that, “Between 50 and 75 per cent of travelers acquire some type of illness.” What can you do to avoid being ill while traveling, or suffering the results after you return home? Most of us know certain hazards but where we’re engaged in sun, fun and travel, we tend to forget good sense and caution, and let go the rules. Not a wise thing to do.

Here are some good basic tips:

  • do not drink tap water
  • do not purchase food from street vendors
  • if you think a restaurant dining room looks dirty, odds are the kitchen is as bad or worse; find somewhere else to eat
  • eat cooked food, not raw food, and especially avoid salads, anything that could be washed in local water and served raw
  • be extra careful about pork (ensure it’s cooked thoroughly) and about any form of seafood, especially shellfish
  • eschew ice cubes in drinks; stick with bottled beer or wine, tinned pop or bottled juice, and drink it warm if you have to
  • even if you love spicy foods, ask the server to hold the hot stuff; it can irritate your bowels, which isn’t such an issue when you’re in your own home
  • be cautious about anything (such as a sandwich or salad) that contains mayonnaise; it goes bad quickly, particularly in a tropical environment
  • don’t eat anything given to you as a gift
  • if you already suffer from stomach conditions, such as diverticulitis, avoid all nuts and seeds when you are traveling; it’s not worth risking an irritated bowel when you are already consuming foods not common to your daily diet

Yes, Prevention is the Best Cure

Prevention works, too. Get your inoculations at home, about six weeks before you go abroad; this ensures you won’t get sick from the injection (a possible side-effect) when you are away. If you are taking medications such as antibiotics, start before you leave, take them religiously when you’re away, and always have them with you. This also applies to other drugs such as anti-malarials and medications that prevent diarrhea. If you do get “the runs”, drink lots and lots of bottled water, especially if you are in a hot climate; you’ll dehydrate very quickly otherwise, and that can be literally life-threatening.

The Hype About Hepatitis

One thing to be fussy about is hepatitis. Be sure that all your normal shots are up to date, and get a Hepatitis A vaccine if you have any concerns. It’s always best to consult with your family doctor or a specialized travel clinic a few months before your planned date of departure. Are these shots and pills expensive? Many treatments and preventatives are covered by public or private health insurance, but if they’re not, take a deep breath and pay for them anyway; the cost to your health may be much higher.

Never assume that a certain disease does not exist where you are going. Commonly tropical diseases like malaria, yellow fever, dengue and cholera have been turning up, albeit in rare cases, in places like Europe. Consult a doctor and go abroad prepared. Better that your health is safe and you come back well, than risk the alternative. If you pay full attention to the risks, take preventative steps and accept the potential seriousness of illness when you travel, then you’ll enjoy your vacation much more and return refreshed, not sick.

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