I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a hypochondriac–the type of person to cringe when reading WebMD, sweat profusely at the slightest increase in my heartbeat and sleep with a bottle of mosquito spray when visiting a country with risk of Malaria. While my tendency to lean towards the dramatic when it comes to health is something to scoff at when home, when abroad my worry about contracting something has led me to prioritize avoiding sickness during my travels. From probiotics to basic street-wise habits, these are my top tips for staying healthy while traveling.
1. Create an in-case of emergency kit.
Remember when your parents used to pack everything ‘just-in-case’? For every Caribbean destination there would be a warm winter sweater “just in case” and for every vacation there would be a medical kit with enough band-aids to dress up as a mummy. At the time, an in-case of emergency kit might have earned an eye roll but today it is wise to take a page from your parent’s book. Whenever I travel I toss a bunch of items in a bag “in case of emergency” and over the course of my travels being prepared has always served me well. Here are a few of the items I carry with me on my travels:
- Zyrtec Allergy Medication
- Dramamine (or for a natural alternative, ginger chews)
- Zinc Cold Therapy
- Aloe Vera/Sunscreen
- Pepcid AC
2. Drink plenty of (safe) water!
I will never forget the time I got a heat stroke from dehydration. For no other reason than stupidity, I was in high school at a hot amusement park and had spent more time waiting in lines for rides than staying hydrated. Like a big yellow bus, the heat stroke hit me head on and saw me go from bouncing in line for Vertical Velocity to hunched over, crumpling to the floor. Drinking water is necessary, especially in hot destinations, but making sure the water is safe is critical. Before you jet off to a destination make sure to reference guide books on the health concerns and safety precautions unique to that region. The knowledge gained from a quick sentence or two can mark the difference between a dream trip or a nightmare.
Tip: Don’t forget about the ice cubes! While most destinations with poor water quality have enough savvy to use clean water ice cubes, some may pour bottled water over tap water cubes. When in doubt, stick to that bottle of water.
3. Don’t skip on the probiotics!
When abroad, my diet changes dramatically from the sandwiches, salads and smoothies of my daily life in New York City to the rich, spicy flavors of whatever country I’m visiting. Colombia saw me living off a diet of fried fish, exotic fruits and cervezas, France had me practically falling asleep with cheese and bread in my mouth and an IV drip of red wine; while Italy turned me into Mario Batalli proclaiming my love for pasta. I hardly hold back when I visit a new country, wanting to absorb as much culture, food, drink and experience as possible but, unfortunately, my stomach is not always on board with my culinary adventures. After a week of fried fish or stinky Camembert my stomach starts to boycott, which is where probiotics come in. Probiotics are a daily supplement that maintain healthy digestion and supports your immune system. Get in the habit of taking probiotics when traveling to arm your stomach with healthy bacteria and steer clear of tummy issues.
4. Suck it up and face the needle.
While it goes without saying, it’s important to remember that some countries are home to deadly viruses and diseases that can be prevented with the prick of a needle. Some destinations may require proof of vaccination upon entry over others that simply recommend facing the needle before you arrive. The CDC is the go-to resource to know what shots are recommended by country, make sure to read up on the health concerns of where you travel.
5. Remembering the basics.
I often carry hand sanitizer as a quick and convenient way to wash my hands while on-the-go. Especially during air travel where people are in a confined space coughing and sneezing, it can be easy to feel the onset of a flu. Washing your hands is an obvious habit to get into and carrying hand sanitizer while traveling is a great trick for when a bathroom sink isn’t readily available.
6. Emergen-C packets are essential.
One of my go-to travel tips is the use of Emergen-C packets to prevent the flu, strengthen my immune system and keep up my vitamin intake. Don’t wait for a flu to set in! Drink a glass of Emegen-C (or something similar) each day to give your body its daily boost of vitamins.
7. The ULTIMATE health trick for long air travel.
I was recently advised this trick by a doctor for long haul flights: Bayer and compression socks. Let me explain. Bayer is an over-the-counter aspirin that scientific reports claim have excellent benefits for the body and heart. When it comes to long flights, Bayer helps thin your blood. Bayer combined with compression socks (available at most drug stores) prevents the risk of forming blood clots at high altitude–a dangerous side affect of traveling. My doctor recommended taking one Bayer the night before a flight and one the morning off. Check with your doctor.
8. Download the Help Call app…just in case.
Although emergencies are the last thing you want to think about when traveling abroad, Help Call is a useful phone app that auto-detects your location and allows for one-touch access to local police, fire stations and ambulances in over 120 countries. ‘Knock on wood’ that you won’t have to use this little app while on the road but it is good to know that if needed the large buttons and shake-to-call function are in your back pocket.
What are your go-to healthy tips for traveling? Share them in the comments section below!