When I travel, I always make sure I try to stay as healthy as possible but I’ve noticed I seem to always pick up a cold after I’ve been on a long flight. The recycled air, close proximity to other people and the jet lag all take its toll. It’s no fun arriving at a destination feeling run down but I’ve come to accept that it’s par for the course and I’ll be fine in a few days. Then the fun of avoiding other health issues begins.
Get your vaccinations
Ensure your basic vaccinations are up to date – this includes Tetanus, Hep A & B, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Polio etc. Then depending on where (or even how) you are travelling you may want to investigate vaccinating against Cholera, Yellow Fever and Malaria amongst others. When I was heading to Africa back in 2002 I went so far as getting a series of ‘pre-rabies’ injections but I don’t think that’s really necessary these days. If you are travelling by sea, some cruise lines (particularly if you are being adventurous and travelling by cargo ship) will require you to be vaccinated against yellow-fever even if you are not travelling to an at-risk destination. Always talk to your doctor or the Travel Vaccination Centre for the best advice for you.
(Try to) Avoid tummy bugs
Few people have been on a holiday and never suffered from an attack of a bad tummy. If you’ve travelled a lot, you may have developed resistance over the years (but paid the price in the past). Typically you will hear advice such as don’t drink the water and don’t eat street food but this means you’ll miss out on half of what travelling is all about – the delicious cuisines of the world. My advice is that slowly does it. Build up your immune system over a few days; Brush your teeth in the local water but don’t swallow it, sample some local dishes but make sure they are cooked fresh. The other thing to remember is that you can pick up all sorts of bugs just by touching things. Try to avoid holding on to handles and handrails (stairs, escalators, door handles, public transport handles etc) and wash your hands frequently.
If you pick up a bug and it hasn’t gone away in 24 hours then get yourself to the nearest clinic / hospital and ask for an injection. There is no point in suffering any longer (believe me – I spent a month consuming Imodium non-stop during my backpacking days). It’s just not worth it and an injection will have you back to full health in no time.
Update your first aid knowledge before you go
I’m a big advocate of people knowing first-aid. I was once in the middle of the Egyptian desert in a very remote location when a man I was travelling with started to choke on a lolly. I realised I didn’t know the correct procedure – did I give him the Heimlich maneuver or was that not the done thing these days? Thankfully the lolly dissolved and he was able to breathe again but it was a scary moment that made me realise how important it was to be able to assist in times of need. As we get older we are also more at risk of falling or disease – make sure you know the signs of stroke and heart attack and what to do in case of an accident should this happen to someone you’re travelling with.
Article by Nicola Billens
Nicola Billens is an experienced traveller, having visited all the continents (except Antarctica) over the last 20 years. She’s lived in France, England, Austria and New Zealand and spent many years and many dollars experiencing what this wonderful world has to offer.