Who wants to stay healthy? Everyone! And on a trip? Even more, since we don’t always know how good is the health care abroad. I have been lucky (or is it luck?): I’ve never been sick in all of the 19 countries I’ve visited. Here is what the experts are recommending.
Before you leave home, visit your doctor and dentist for checkups, and inform them you’re going away. You don’t want a toothache in a country where you don’t understand the language! On your trip, you should carry your doctor’s number with you, if you want a diagnostic or a second opinion over the phone. In some cases, your insurance company will insist you talk to someone in your home country. And head to a local travel clinic to be sure you have received all the vaccines that are required by the country you want to travel to.
Subscribe to a travel insurance, and keep all the details on you, including contact help lines. In the unlikely event you need a treatment, this will speed up the process and make sure your insurer is informed. You should also email yourself a scan of your policy certificate, in case you lose the paper documents.
I also carry with me a list of where to access quality medical care in the country I’m visiting. You can get that information when you subscribe to the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (www.iamat.org).
If you want to know how to easily deal with jetlag, please read my article about it.
If you travel with a phone, set yourself a daily or weekly reminder to take whatever medicine and/or preventatives you need for your journey. If not, coincide taking it with the same meal each day so it becomes a routine. That’s what I do to take my birth control pill; even if it would make a great story to get pregnant in the Philippines, I take all the means necessary to take it at the same time, considering time difference!
One of the best things you can do to avoid getting sick is to use hand sanitizer thoroughly. Keep a small bottle in your pocket, and use it before and after meals, and after going to the restroom if there’s nowhere to wash your hands.
If you are worried about street food, as long as it is fully cooked, there’s no worry about it. It’s sometimes even better than in restaurants since you can see how it’s cooked. Just be careful about the hands that touch it (the cook and yours). You can also bring your own throwaway ecofriendly chopsticks or utensils, or a camping spoon, which you can clean yourself if you don’t want to take any chances with the ones that are provided.
Boiling water for 5 minutes is the best way to ensure it is safe to drink, at any altitude. If you are using a water purifier, try to choose the cleanest source possible. Always stay away from river, lake or well’s water without purifying it first.
Another way to stay healthy is to avoid bites. Use insect repellent with a high percentage of DEET (the higher is the most effective). You could also apply an insect killer, such as permethrin, to clothing to kill ticks on contact; use a plug-in insect killer in your hotel room at night and/or a mosquito net over your bed. I was happy I had my mosquito net the night I slept in a room with an ant colony on the ceiling!
Finally, pack with you a medical kit that deals with common ailments like the cold, the flu and headaches as much as what you need for a tropical disease.
And remember: don’t stress about it! Stress makes us sick!!