Every year, millions of people travel to countries all over the world. Some travelers experience health problems while abroad, including traveler’s diarrhea (or TD), fungal infections like athlete’s foot, respiratory infections like bronchitis, or sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS, gonorrhea, or syphilis.
Although it is impossible to prevent every illness when traveling overseas, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of illness.
Staying hydrated is the key to preventing many traveler’s health problems, including TD. To be at their best when traveling, people need an additional 1–2 quarts of fluid every day. The extra fluids help travelers avoid becoming dehydrated when they have diarrhea. Water is best, but you can also drink juice, broth, tea, coffee, or soda.
If your intestines are sensitive to caffeine, switch to decaf. Be sure that any drinks you consume in a country where the water may not be safe have been boiled for at least one minute or filtered with a filter that meets the standards of NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) or other similar international organizations.
Eat fresh fruits and raw vegetables only when you are certain they have been washed in safe water or peeled where appropriate. You can also avoid problems by avoiding unpasteurized dairy products, ice cream, uncooked flour, meats that are not well cooked, and tap water.
If you are traveling to a developing country, it is best to avoid raw vegetables completely or peel them yourself with a vegetable peeler or knife. It’s also helpful to remember that fruits sold in open-air markets may be washed with untreated water. If this is the case, peeling fruit will protect your intestinal tract.
Only eat fruit that is well-cooked in a sauce or syrup; avoid fresh fruit juice. If you do not have access to safe drinking water, use bottled or boiled water to brush your teeth or rinse out your mouth and avoid using tap water unless it has been boiled for one minute.
Travelers who wish to avoid traveler’s diarrhea should limit themselves to yogurt and other dairy products that have been boiled or pasteurized.
Although it is difficult to burn in most countries during the winter, people who travel abroad for extended periods of time should use a sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15 when they are outside. They should also wear sunglasses that provide 100% UV (ultraviolet) protection to avoid eye problems like snow blindness.
Wear comfortable, layered clothing
When you are traveling abroad during the winter months, it is best to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants while outside. When you are in buildings or vehicles, be sure to remove extra layers of clothes to avoid overheating. If possible, schedule your stay abroad so that you can spend time outdoors during the warmer months and inside during the colder ones.
Stay connected to home
Many people who travel abroad feel like they are missing out on things at home. To avoid this, make sure you bring with you items that remind you of your life back in your hometown. This can be as simple as a photograph from a friend or relative, a small box of cereal from your favorite brand, or even a postcard from your hometown.
If you usually wear clothing that is specific to your home country, look for similar items to bring with you on your trip. When you feel homesick and want to talk with friends or family back home, try calling instead of writing a letter. It may be cheaper to call home, and calls are almost always more personal than letters.
In conclusion, staying healthy while traveling abroad is not usually difficult when you follow a few simple tips. If you are worried about coming down with traveler’s diarrhea or another illness during your trip, be sure to bring along medications for treating these problems even if you do not think they will be necessary.
Most importantly, try to stay calm and relaxed when you are on a trip. It will help you stay healthy, and it will also make your vacation much more enjoyable.