How to Stay Healthy While Traveling Abroad

Staying Healthy While Traveling Abroad: How the Pros Do It

Many travelers return from their journey with stories to tell.  Some come down with a strange illness early on in their trips that prevents them from enjoying the country that they are visiting to its fullest.  Others get so run down from day-to-day activities that their immune systems protest.  Rather than be out sightseeing with friends, they are holed up in their hotel rooms or hostels feeling the worst they have ever felt.

A foreign diet, compromised water supply, and an endless string of all-nighters are detrimental to your health.  The first rule of traveling abroad is to maintain a sense of skepticism when it comes to what your body can and can’t handle.  Remember that outside influences can wreak havoc on your immune system and cause you to feel rundown and weak.  Traveler’s diarrhea affects up to 50,000 people a day in certain high risk countries.  You do not want to become 50,001.  By heeding caution throughout your trip, you reduce the risk of many illnesses like malaria, norovirus, and dengue fever.

Take an Oral Vaccination Before Leaving

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highly recommends scheduling an appointment with your doctor or other medical provider four to six weeks before your trip.  This will give the vaccine plenty of time to be effective in your body.

The CDC divides vaccinations into three categories—routine, recommended, and required.  Routine vaccinations include those given in an attempt to prevent Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR), Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis (Td/Tdap), and Influenza.  A more comprehensive list can be found at:

Recommended vaccinations depend on a number of factors with the most important being the country that you are traveling to.  Age, health status, and prior immunizations all play a factor in determining what vaccines you will need before visiting another corner of the globe.

Yellow fever vaccinations for travelers visiting certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America are required by the International Health Regulations. Meningococcal vaccination is required by the government of Saudi Arabia during Hajj.

Get Plenty of Rest While On the Road

Many people feel like they need a vacation from their vacation once they have returned home.  This can be avoided by getting the recommended amount of sleep required by your body.  Take frequent naps and don’t be afraid to call it a night even if the other people in your group feel like being up until the wee hours of the morning.

Avoid stimulants like caffeine before going to bed.  If you have difficulty falling asleep right away, consider drinking a cup of chamomile tea or reading a book until you feel relaxed.  If background noises are causing you discomfort, try using a traveler’s sleep machine or similar application on your phone or iPod.

Do Not Drink Untreated Water or Use It To Make Ice

If you have ever heard the phrase, “Don’t drink the water,” you may be familiar with the effects of Montezuma’s Revenge.  Parasites and bacteria live in water, and without proper treatment, a town’s drinking supply can be compromised.  Always buy water in bottles and refrain from ordering water in restaurants unless you know for sure that it has been treated. Otherwise, you may find yourself searching for a parasite cleanse to get your “plumbing” back in order when you get back from your trip.

Many outdoor suppliers sell iodine because it’s easy-to-carry and reliable.  It does not, however, protect against Cryptosporidium which causes giardia-like symptoms.   This illness runs its course for five to seven days and is not curable.

Avoid Eating Uncooked Foods

In outdoor marketplaces, foods may have been exposed to the sun for long periods of time.   Never eat raw meats and make sure to wash and peel the skin off fruits and vegetables just to be on the safe side.  Too much sunlight can cause different items to rot or ferment. Cooking items fully helps kill off harmful bacteria making the food safe to eat. The last thing that you need while traveling is an upset stomach.

Include a Daily Multi-Vitamin in Your Diet

A good multi-vitamin provides you with everything you need to keep your body in optimal condition while globetrotting.  This is especially important to have with you while traveling to countries with limited food options.  The key to feeling great abroad is to get enough rest, maintain a balanced diet, and have access to the vitamins and nutrients necessary for survival.

Although illness is often unavoidable, you should take every precaution you can while on the road.  This will help you to operate at your absolute best and ensures that you have a great time traveling.

It is often easier to establish a routine after being on the road for a couple of days.  Just remember to take frequent naps between sightseeing.

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