We are living in the age of travel. Traveling has become more affordable, comfortable, and accessible than ever before. It is one of the best ways to learn about other cultures, make new friends, relax with family, or enjoy a romantic getaway with your significant other. When our world opens up to new possibilities on an international scale, we also open ourselves to the remarkably thrilling and simultaneously dangerous adventure of traveling.
Traveling outside our home countries can provide great opportunities, but it is important to remember that there are diseases and germs lurking around every corner—even if you do not see them right away. We may think we will be fine because we brought along a bottle of hand sanitizer, but without proper precautions, it becomes very easy to accidentally contract a virus or illness.
The CDC have identified the four most common factors that contribute to illnesses on international trips. They are as follows:
- Traveling during the winter and spring months (November through April)
- Extended travel periods (more than one week)
- Staying in hotels, especially those on the outskirts of cities
- Strenuous activities (like hiking or participating in sporting events)
Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, here is some information about how to stay healthy on your trip. Cleanliness and general hygiene are key when it comes to preventing diseases.
Many of us know that we need to wash our hands regularly, but actually doing it is a different story. Many people avoid washing their hands because they feel like it takes too much time or because the bathroom facilities offer no soap or hot water. It’s bigger than this though; many of us simply do not think about handwashing as we go through our day. For example, have you ever taken a sip of your drink without thinking about what you just touched?
The best places to wash your hands are the ones with warm water and soap. The CDC recommends that you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds—about as long as it takes to sing the ABC song twice through. This amount of time will allow you to kill a majority of the germs and viruses on your hands.
There are soap dispensers in most bathrooms so it is not necessary to always have an individual bottle of hand soap with you. If there is no shower or sink available for washing, there are also small bottles of alcohol-based sanitizers that do not require water to use. These are usually available in most convenience stores or pharmacies.
In line with being clean, it is important to maintain a healthy diet and avoid street food. If you go out to eat at a restaurant, avoid ordering buffet style as this means there is more opportunity for your food to be exposed to germs from other customers.
On the other hand, you do not want to avoid eating all together because you do not know how clean your food is or if it was cooked sufficiently.
The best way to eat healthy foods while traveling outside the US is to bring them with you from home. If you can’t fit a whole refrigerator in your luggage, there are plenty of dried and canned food alternatives that do not need to be stored in the fridge.
The most important thing to remember is that it is okay to feel homesick or lonely; your family and friends at home want you to return safe and sound just as much as you want them to know you are okay. Despite their best efforts, however, they cannot protect you from the germs waiting for you outside.
Traveling is an exciting opportunity, so do not let some unfamiliar disease scare you away from it. Do your research and plan ahead to ensure that once you get there, all of your fun is without consequences.