It’s every traveler’s fear—falling ill while on holiday. It’s part of the reason why experienced travelers ensure they have travel insurance, to help offset the costs should an unexpected illness or injury require medical attention. Even so, if you’re winter weary and looking to shed your winter boots for flip flops, there are other precautions you should take to maximize the likelihood of your spring getaway going off without a hitch.
1. Get vaccinated
Make a date with your doctor or pharmacist so they can vaccinate you against illnesses that may be common to the area where you are travelling. For example, your doctor may recommend you take antimalarial medication depending on where you are going.
2. Pack a travel health kit
Pack a travel health kit that includes bandages, upset stomach medication, antibiotic and anti-fungal ointment, pain reliever, allergy medication, antacids and anti-nausea medication. If you’re going to a country where you don’t speak the language, it can be difficult to determine what’s what in the pharmacy.
3. Wash your hands, frequently
Washing your hands is one of the most effective ways to prevent illness while travelling. Using soap and clean water, scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds, and rinse. Don’t forget to clean the areas between your fingers and under your nails.
4. Carry hand sanitizer with you
There may be times when you don’t have access to a handwashing station. In these instances, a handy travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer can help. Although not as effective as washing your hands, a sanitizer that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol can reduce the germs until you’re able to find a sink and soap.
5. Drink bottled water
Don’t assume that all water from a tap is potable. Play it safe and stick to bottled water, or water that has been purified.
6. Protect yourself from the sun
A bad sunburn can cause headaches, fever, chills and fatigue. Be safe in the sun by applying waterproof sunscreen (with a SPF of at least 15) all over your face and body, and reapply every few hours as needed. Try to limit the time you’re in the sun, cover up as much as comfortably possible, and remember to wear a hat.
7. Protect yourself from the heat
Like the sun, the heat can take a toll on your body. Drink plenty of non-alcoholic beverages to stay hydrated, try not to over-exert yourself, wear a hat and light-colored clothing, and rest often in shady areas. If you start to feel some of the symptoms of heat illness (dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid breathing or extreme thirst) move to a cool place and drink water right away.
8. Use insect repellant
Many travel-related illnesses, like dengue fever, malaria and the Zika virus, are the result of being bitten by an infected mosquito, tick, flea or fly. Your best offence is an insect repellant with DEET or Icaridin. If you’re using both sunscreen and insect repellent at the same time, apply the sunscreen first, followed by the repellent.
9. Be cautious of what you eat
The Government of Canada has a saying when it comes to what you eat while travelling: “Boil it, cook it, peel it or leave it!” Don’t consume any food unless you know that it has been cooked thoroughly, and is still hot when served. Be wary of uncooked foods, such as salads and shellfish, as well as foods from street vendors.
10. Follow local traffic laws
Traffic accidents are the most common cause of death and injury among travelers under the age of 50. Familiarize yourself with the local traffic laws and customs, don’t drive under the influence and don’t get in a vehicle where the driver may appear impaired. And, if you plan to rent a scooter or moped, always wear a helmet.