How to Stay Healthy On The Road

Stethoscope and paperworkUpdated November 28, 2016

Staying healthy on the road is key to making the most of your big trip. Traveling (like so many things in life) is more fun when you’re feeling well. So with a little help from Dr. Dobrow at Safe Treks, we’ve prepared a guide to help you stay well on your travels – wherever they may take you.

The first order of business is to make sure to protect yourself from getting sick before you get sick. A ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment, so they say.

Common Immunizations Recommended For International Travel

When traveling internationally, it’s good to be sure your immunizations are up to date. Immunizations aren’t just important to protecting your health – some countries require proof of immunization for entry. The most common vaccination required for entry is the yellow fever vaccine.

Here’s a list of  travel vaccinations/immunizations you may need for your RTW trip:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Japanese Encephalitis
  • MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella)
  • Meningitis
  • Polio
  • Rabies
  • TDP (Tetanus, Diptheria, Pertussis)
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow Fever

When in Doubt, Check with the CDC

When you’ve got an itinerary planned for an international multi-stop or round-the-world trip, the best place to check out which immunizations you’ll need for your particular route is the Center For Disease Control at www.cdc.gov. Here you can find the CDC’s advice on which vaccines to get for travel to each destination on your itinerary, as well as advice about anti-malarial drugs, and health hazards you may want to be aware of.

For more information on vaccines and where to get them, contact your primary doctor.

Keeping Insects At Bay

Mosquitoes are a menace. Possibly the most annoying of all insects, they also transport disease, cause painful, itchy welts and generally irritate people to no end. Insect repellent can be an absolute lifesaver.

When traveling outside of large urban areas, it’s always a good idea to keep at least a small bottle of repellent on your person at all times. You never know where you’ll encounter standing water and inevitably mosquitoes. Sprays are the easiest to use and provide the most coverage, especially in hard-to-reach areas. Repellent can save you from other dangerous insects as well.

How to keep insects off your body:

  • Most experts agree that insect repellents containing DEET (N,N-diethylmetatoluamide) are the most reliable and long-lasting of them all. DEET repels mosquitoes, ticks, and other arthropods when applied to the skin or clothing.
  • DEET formulations 30-50% are recommended for both adults and children over 2 months of age.
  • When using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and then repellent.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, hats and long pants tucked into socks to cover exposed skin.
  • Inspect your body and clothing for ticks during outdoor activity and at the end of the day. Wear light-colored or white clothing so ticks can be more easily seen.
  • Apply permethrin or other insect repellents, to clothing, shoes, tents, mosquito nets, and other gear for greater protection. Permethrin-treated clothing is effective for up to 5 washings.
  • Be aware that the mosquitoes that transmit malaria are most active between dusk and dawn. Stay inside air-conditioned or well-screened housing, and/or sleep under an insecticide treated bed net.

Preventing Stomach Problems

With different food options available than you’re used to, it’s pretty much inevitable that you’ll have to deal with an upset stomach at some point on your trip.  The most common illness you’ll face on the road is likely to be traveler’s diarrhea, (aka, Montezuma’s Revenge, Delhi Belly, etc). If you do get sick, dehydration is the major danger. Make sure to rest and drink lots of water! If you’re sick for more than a day or two, seek medical attention, you may need antibiotics.

Tips for Avoiding Traveler’s Diarrhea

  • Drink boiled or bottled water only, no ice
  • Eat only cooked foods
  • Skip salads and raw vegetables
  • Peel fresh fruit before you eat it
  • Wash your hands a lot or use antibacterial gel
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy & cheese

Staying Healthy in the Sun

The sun can be your best friend and your worst enemy. Though it may not be the most dangerous short-term illness that can befall you, it is important to your health in the long run.

It’s as simple as this: bring your sunscreen everywhere you go and use it. Be judicious on how often and how much to use. Base it on your level of exposure. In the mountains, snow can amplify the amount of UV radiation you’re exposed to. And don’t forget, even on overcast days a sunburn is still possible.

Sunscreen is widely available around the world, but in central and eastern African nations and rural areas sunscreen may be hard to find. Stock-up on what you need at large local pharmacies, airports or tourist shops before you go off-grid.

Keeping Your Feet Happy

Comfortable shoes are a must-have for around-the-world travelers. Bring at least one pair of thick-soled shoes or boots for walking and trekking and flip-flops to protect your feet in shared showers and spas.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Contraceptives and condoms aren’t readily available at every destination, so don’t forget to pack them to prevent STDs and STIs.

Traveling with Medication

If you have medication you take regularly, you should always bring more than than you need to last you throughout your journey – especially if your medical health depends on it, it’s better to be safe.

Make sure you carry your prescription medications in the original pharmacy packaging and bring the prescription. That way if there’s any doubt whether the drugs were prescribed legally, you’ll have your proof.

If you’re traveling with vitamins or any over-the-counter pills, make sure you carry them in their original packaging as well. Transporting pills or medicine in unmarked containers can raise suspicion when passing through airport security, and cause you easily avoidable hassles and delays.

Photo Credits: preecha2531