Being sick is always a drag. But being sick when you’re away from home is doubly so. Toughing it out in a strange hotel room with none of the items that might make your feel better is miserable. In fact, the only thing that’s worse is being on a crowded plane or train, unable to sleep or get any rest.
We’ve been stricken in Africa, South America, Alaska, and Europe, and an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. And though you can’t prevent everything, you can stack the odds in your favor.
Most of the time, we get sick because our immune system is compromised in some way. And when you’re traveling, interrupted sleep patterns, changes in diet, and other interruptions in routine can make you especially vulnerable.
Over the years, we’ve found that the best defense is a good offense. So here are a few things you can do to keep yourself strong and healthy:
1) Be careful about what you eat and where you eat. If anything seems even slightly off, don’t put it in your mouth. Wash your hands or treat them with an antibacterial before you touch your food. And don’t eat anywhere with poor sanitation. Pack a couple granola bars or bags of nuts for times when you’re hungry but there’s nothing good to eat.
2) Drink wine with your meals – it actually helps prevent salmonella. And in many areas, the local wine is one the highlights.
3) Don’t eat fruits and veggies that are mostly water in areas where the water is bad. And speaking of fruit, if you don’t eat a lot of it at home, don’t go crazy at the breakfast buffet. Go easy and give your digestive system time to adjust.
4) Do pack a few Immodium AD pills with your toiletries, in case of emergency. And by emergency, I mean that you can’t stay out of the bathroom but you have to spend the next 12 hours on a plane.
5) Take any over-the-counter medications that you use at home with you on your trip. If you get indigestion or hives or a cold once a year, you’ll get it on your vacation. That’s how it works. So having whichever remedy works for you will save you a lot of grief. Often, if you can nip something in the bud, it won’t fully develop.
6) Don’t drink too much – especially not on the plane where dehydration is a real problem. Yes, you’re on vacation. And yes, those mai tais are the best ever. But being moderate will keep you feeling fine. And trust me, you do not want to visit the Parthenon with a hangover anyway.
7) Drink as much water as you can. Bottled water is for sale everywhere, and in Europe, most restaurants will bring you a carafe of water to drink with your meal. Try to finish it off before you leave the restaurant.
8) Eat a well-balanced diet. Trying new foods is one of the great pleasures of travel. But make sure you get plenty of veggies and whole grains too.
9) Try to get enough sleep. Although it’s hard when you have jet lag, make an effort. If you wake up at 3AM and you’re “done” for the night, just lay there quietly and try to rest your mind and body anyway.
10) Get some exercise. Getting up your heart rate and working up a sweat are great ways to stay healthy and keep extra pounds at bay. If your hotel doesn’t have a fitness center, take a brisk, uphill walk. Even thirty-minutes a day will help.
Taking these simple precautions will help ensure that you feel great during your travels.