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Let’s face it – no one wants to be getting sick when traveling abroad. If you’re wondering how to avoid getting sick while travelling, you’ve come to the right place.
Getting sick right before vacation or during a road trip you’d been planning for months can turn an amazing experience into a seriously unpleasant one. From “vacation sniffles” to traveller’s diarrhoea and much more dangerous diseases like malaria or yellow fever, staying healthy while on holiday can feel like an impossible mission.
In this blog, we’ll give you some travel tips and information so you can avoid getting sick and make the most of your holiday.
So pack your bags, get your passport ready, and read on if you’d like to find out how to not get sick when traveling.
How to avoid getting sick on holiday
Travelling comes with a number of challenges: from planning the itinerary, to booking flights and hotels, or even navigating credit card charges abroad. One thing that is often overlooked but is essential to keep in mind for travellers with disabilities or pre-existing medical conditions is, of course, your health and making sure to avoid getting sick while travelling.
Travel health issues can be bothersome and can make enjoying your holiday a lot more difficult. If you’re concerned about health risks while travelling and have a disability or pre-existing condition, first speak to your GP before you travel. Once you get the okay to travel abroad, make sure to take out travel insurance and research any vaccinations required for your destination. The NHS as well as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention can provide information about current health warnings across the world and vaccines required for travel.
When travelling or on your trip abroad, here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to avoiding sickness during travel:
Some of the most common vaccines required for travel include cholera, polio, yellow fever, hepatitis A, and rabies. Speak to your GP about the required vaccinations for your destination at least eight weeks before you travel, as you may need to receive more than one dose of a vaccine to achieve immunity.
This may come at a cost, so ask your GP for more information or browse the Hospital for Tropical Diseases’ website to get an idea of typical prices for private clinics. You may also need to provide a vaccination certificate on arrival at your destination, so be sure to ask your doctor for one.
Colds, flu and Coronavirus
Cold and flus are some of the most common viral diseases in humans, and they’re usually spread through coughs and sneezes. COVID-19, caused by the coronavirus, will cause flu-like symptoms and can impact your lungs or airways, with potentially life-threatening complications, especially if you have a pre-existing health condition.
Wearing a face mask in crowded areas such as trains, planes, airports, markets or shopping centres can help reduce the risk of transmission. Remember to always cough or sneeze into a tissue, throw the used tissues in the bin immediately, and wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer.
Food and water
Since most travel-related illnesses are contracted through contaminated water and food poisoning, you may be wondering: how do I prepare my stomach for international travel?
Start by taking pre-and probiotic supplements at least two weeks before you travel, which will work to strengthen your immune system and gut health. Once at your destination, be sure to wash your hands regularly with soap and water or hand sanitizer – especially before and during food preparation – and avoid touching your face.
Only drink bottled water and ensure the seal is in place before opening. If bottled water is not available, use chlorine-based tablets or boil tap water for at least five minutes before drinking. You can also use this boiled water for food preparation or to brush your teeth.
Insects and animals
Another hazard to look out for are diseases transmitted by insects and other animals such as dogs or snakes, as these can cause severe illnesses or even death; some well-known diseases include malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, Zika virus and rabies
The best way to protect yourself from these dangerous diseases is to prevent bites. Do not approach any stray animals (especially dogs or cats) you may encounter abroad. If traveling in an area with a high risk of insect-borne illness, use insect repellents (on your skin, clothes, and in your room) that include the active ingredient DEET, and protect your bed with a mosquito net while you sleep.
If you’re planning to visit an area that has a known malaria risk, your GP might recommend taking anti-malarial tablets throughout your trip and when you return home. Follow your doctor’s instructions for how long to take these.
While mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas can carry and transmit a number of blood-borne diseases, they cannot carry HIV or Hepatitis B. The most likely way for travellers to contract these is via sexual intercourse or sharing needles. To keep yourself safe and healthy, always use condoms and do not use anything that may have been contaminated with someone else’s blood, such as medical or piercing needles, tattoo machines, or dental and surgical equipment.
Sunburns, cuts and stings
While not as life-threatening as some of the other dangers you might encounter while traveling, small burns or injuries can significantly impact your holiday enjoyment. Once again, the best protection will be prevention. Check any warning signs on beaches about the risk of stings from jellyfish or sea urchins, and pay attention to rocks or vegetation on hikes and in nature.
To avoid getting sunburnt, which on top of being painful can also increase your risk of skin cancer, use a high-factor sunscreen. While the brand doesn’t matter, SPF 30 or 50 is best – and make sure to reapply it every two hours if you’re out in the sun. You should also try to cover up as much as possible (including your head, so wear a hat or scarf), and avoid going out during the hottest part of the day, usually from midday until 3pm.
Remember to also plan into your itinerary some rest and recovery time as travelling and sightseeing can be tiring.
What to do if you get sick while traveling
While we’re hoping you’ll be staying healthy throughout your holiday, here’s how to handle being sick in another country.
If despite your best efforts you do end up suffering with a slight cold, or mild diarrhoea while travelling abroad, do not panic! These are usually nothing to worry about, and can be treated with basic medication such as painkillers or diarrhoea tablets. You can take these with you, or they should be available at any pharmacy.
With diarrhoea and vomiting, the main thing to remember is staying hydrated. Drink plenty of bottled water and take rehydration treatments every hour or after every bowel movement or sickness episode. If rehydration sachets aren’t available to you, make your own solution by mixing one litre of bottled water with half a teaspoon of salt and six teaspoons of sugar.
While mild symptoms should go away within a few days, seek medical help as soon as possible if you experience severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, abdominal pain, very high temperature, or notice blood or mucus in your stools.
Bites and cuts
In case of an insect bite, make sure to keep the affected area clean. Do not scratch it, as doing so could cause it to become infected. In case of an allergic reaction, antihistamine tablets and steroid creams can be used to bring you some relief. The bite should start to feel better after a few days. However, snake bites, while very rare, can be life-threatening and will require urgent medical attention – if this happens to you, immobilise the affected arm or leg and go to A&E immediately.
If you have been bitten by a mosquito and develop symptoms such as chills, a fever, joint pain, headaches, diarrhoea, or nausea, seek medical advice immediately. This includes symptoms that may not develop for quite some time, so be sure to let your GP know if you have visited an area with malaria and stay alert for up to one year after you return from the affected area.
Bites or scratches from infected animals can also cause rabies to spread to humans. To avoid contracting the disease, always wash any scratch or bite for a few minutes with soap and bottled water, allow it to bleed, and clean it with an alcohol wipe if possible. Then, seek medical advice as soon as possible as you may need treatment.
Other than the above, you may be able to get advice on minor health issues and get basic medication from local pharmacies. However, for serious illnesses and emergency treatments, go to your nearest A&E and speak to a doctor as soon as you can.
Summary On How To Avoid Getting Sick While Travelling
Is there anything worse than being sick abroad? We don’t think so! Travel health issues can quickly turn the holiday of your dreams into a nightmare – but we’re here to guide you so that it doesn’t happen.
There are just a few things to keep in mind when it comes to avoiding getting sick while on a holiday. Vaccinations, adequate hygiene and protection from viruses, and being careful to choose safe foods to avoid the dreaded traveller’s sickness are just a few parts of the puzzle. You’ll also want to look out for insects and animals – pack that insect repellent or mosquito net to avoid getting bitten – and be careful not to hurt yourself while out in nature.
If something does go wrong, having a well-stocked first-aid kit (complete with plasters, bandages, painkillers, anti-diarrhoea tablets, and disinfecting wipes) will ensure you quickly get better – and that you can get back to enjoying your vacation! If you don’t feel better, visit the pharmacist at your destination or ask the hotel for advice on how to see a doctor.
What precautions do you take to avoid getting sick while travelling? Let us know in the comments!
FAQ on How To Avoid Getting Sick While Travelling
Why do I always get a cold when I travel?
Travelling can take its toll on your body, and one of the most common symptoms travellers report is a stuffy, runny nose. This can be due to a number of factors, but the most likely culprit is the shock to your immune system caused by travelling between different climates, as well as travelling in busy, enclosed spaces like planes or buses.
Why do I always get sick after traveling by plane?
You may be wondering how to avoid motion sickness while travelling, or how to generally stay feeling good on a flight. Plane travel can cause issues like blood clots (especially in your legs), sinus pressure, or motion sickness. First, stay hydrated and try to move at least every two hours. On a long flight, you may want to wear compression stockings that apply gentle pressure to your legs to help with blood flow. For sinus pain or motion sickness, you may want to keep medicine in your travel bag – just make sure it’s allowed on your flight.
What are the 4 most common travel illnesses?
While there are a number of diseases to look out for depending on the area of the world you’re travelling to, some of the most common include hepatitis A, malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever. Be sure to speak to your medical provider ahead of your trip to arrange vaccinations!
What is travelers diarrhea called?
Diarrhoea or getting sick while travelling is usually caused by the E. coli bacteria, but the illness is known under many creative names such as Montezuma’s Revenge, Bali Belly, and the Rangoon Runs.
How long does travelers sickness last?
Though it can be unpleasant and put a damper on your travel plans, mild diarrhoea will usually resolve within 3 to 5 days without the need for medical care. Seek medical help if your symptoms become severe or continue for longer than a week. To avoid sickness when traveling, keep our tips above in mind.
Do probiotics help with travellers diarrhea?
While pre- and probiotic supplements can help strengthen your gut and theoretically reduce the risk for traveller’s diarrhoea, not enough research has been done on the topic for doctors to recommend probiotics as a treatment for sickness while travelling. We recommend speaking to your GP if you need medical advice.
What if I get sick with Covid while traveling?
COVID-19 rules vary from country to country. If you develop symptoms while travelling abroad, check the local regulations first and do not go to the doctor’s or to hospital. You may need to self-isolate or arrange a test before you can be seen. Avoid flying while sick with Covid as this could spread the virus to more people, and consider receiving a Covid vaccine or booster dose before you travel. (This is particularly important if you have a pre-existing medical condition.)
How do I pay for treatment if I am getting sick while on vacation?
You should be able to use cash, credit or debit cards to purchase basic medication abroad. If you develop a severe illness, your travel and/or health insurance may be able to cover any doctor’s visits or hospital treatments. Make sure to research insurance providers before going away to find the right option for you. If travelling in the EU, you may be able to get a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which will allow you to get medical care at the same price as residents of the country you’re staying in.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition, take a copy of the Medical Alert Translation Letter in the language of the country you plan to visit. This may help you when visiting the pharmacy or doctor as you can add existing medication or allergies.