I get yourself a large amount of questions about healthcare on the highway – “How do i avoid getting sick? What need vaccines? What goes on when I really do get sick?” Since I’m not really a doctor, I don’t like giving medical advice so I’ve asked Mike Huxley, a rn and author of your blog Bemused Backpacker to create a few articles on health insurance and safety when you travel.
His first article centered on creating the perfect medical kit. This article features easy methods to stay healthy on the highway.
Getting sick is an integral part of everyday life, and being on the highway doesn’t exempt you from that fact, particularly when travel itself exposes you to a complete new selection of bugs, parasites, and environments.
The actual fact of the matter may be the longer you are traveling, the much more likely you are to get a bug or two.
The main element to minimizing the probability of this, however, is to actively combat the chance factors to become sick to begin with. The last thing you should do is to expose you to ultimately any longer risk than you must. Prevention is much better than any cure.
1. Wash THE HANDS
I understand this sounds basic, nonetheless it is surprising just how many people forget it, and as a nurse, the easy act of washing the hands has been drilled into me since day among basic training as an essential component in infection control.
The National Health Service (NHS) in britain has had an enormous effect on controlling infection in a clinical setting by just reinforcing the need for washing your hands, however the same is true for each facet of day-to-day life, and traveling the world is no exception.
Hand hygiene is vital to avoid the spread of infection and may dramatically reduce your likelihood of diarrhea, vomiting, food poisoning, gastroenteritis, flu, norovirus, MRSA, as well as hepatitis A.
Many travelers carry small bottles of hand gel, and they are great as a backup, however they aren’t a replacement once and for all old soap and water. Whenever we can, wash the hands under warm water for at least thirty seconds before and after eating and always after likely to the toilet.
2. Drink WATER IN BOTTLES
When you can’t be certain of the purity of the neighborhood water or you are traveling in areas where sanitation isn’t that great, then it will go without saying that you ought to avoid the local plain tap water. Even if locals drink it without the problems, your stomach might not have the proper bacteria to safeguard you from becoming ill, avoid local water – even ice in your drinks – in countries that don’t purify their plain tap water.
I would recommend that at the minimum it is best to drink water in bottles and double-check that the seal is intact on the bottle top too (a common scam is to market bottles refilled with plain tap water). Additionally it is smart to use water in bottles to brush your teeth.
But personally I favor to employ a water bottle with an integral filter as this reduces the necessity to buy bottles of water constantly, saving both money and the surroundings.
Lifestraw and SteriPen are two great tools for water pruification aswell.
3. BE CAUTIOUS of Food Contamination
Food contamination is among the biggest factors behind traveler’s diarrhea and gastrointestinal problems on any travel adventure.
When you are not careful together with your food on your own travels, you might be exposing you to ultimately diarrhea, E. coli, Shigella, Salmonella, Giardia, Entamoeba hystolytica, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidia, Cyclospora, cholera, plus much more nastiness.
It is best to ensure – up to is practicably possible – that any food you take in is fresh, cooked thoroughly, and served piping hot.
I really like street food because of this very reason, as you can plainly see how clean the cooking environment is, and the meals is often prepared right before you. But consider signs of good hygiene practice at any street food stall or food court you take in at.
Does the individual handling the meals wear disposable gloves and change them frequently?
Will there be another person handling the amount of money or, at the minimum, does the individual cooking the food replace gloves whenever they handle cash?
Is handwashing a normal occurrence?
Is raw food overlooked on view or could it be stored correctly?
These exact things may seem inconsequential however they are essential.
You might want to avoid – or be careful of – the next:
- Salads that might have been prepared in local untreated water
- Raw fruit and veggies that you haven’t peeled or skinned yourself (in case you have, they are usually fine)
- Food that is overlooked and exposed for a time period
- Food that’s shared, such as for example in buffets undercooked, raw, or reheated food, especially meat, fish, or rice.
You almost certainly aren’t likely to avoid a little bit of stomach upset completely on your own travels – particularly if you are traveling long term – but if you’re alert to good food hygiene practices and follow them whenever you can, then you can at the minimum prevent becoming ill.
4. Don’t HESITATE of experiencing Familiar Food
Eating local food and delving in to the local cuisine is among the absolute true pleasures of traveling and one you must never miss out on. Having said that, a degree of good sense is necessary too.
Jumping directly into a diet of spicy curries or predominantly red meat is a great way to ensure some type of gastrointestinal upset if your stomach isn’t used to it.
Food intolerances happen whenever your gut can’t properly digest the meals you’ve eaten, or you’ve introduced something new and various to it, that may irritate the digestive system and result in stomach pain, cramps, gas, diarrhea, vomiting, and heartburn.
Don’t worry – this generally isn’t serious and can pass relatively quickly. The secret to trying new foods and new cuisine is to combine it up a bit.
Should you have a sensitive stomach, take it easy initially and don’t hesitate of eating familiar food every once in awhile.
5. Try to Stay Active
One of the better ways to stay healthy and fight off unwanted infections is exercise. Some great benefits of exercise are popular and well documented: it improves your current health insurance and well-being and strengthens your disease fighting capability, making you less vunerable to illness.
And in the event that you do get sick, the body is better in a position to fight off the infection and quicker get you back on your own feet. It isn’t foolproof, of course, because fit people still get sick, however in general the fitter you are, the better the body will be at shrugging off that annoying bug or illness.
I usually try and maintain a wholesome lifestyle, and that doesn’t change because I am traveling.
In the event that you aren’t active or fit before you begin traveling, utilize it as a justification to start! Embark on a jungle trek, go hiking in to the countryside or up a mountain, swim in the ocean, get a jog – whatever tickles your fancy so long as it gets you just a little exhausted.
6. Protect Yourself Against sunlight
Sunburn can seriously ruin an excellent travel experience! I acquired very badly sunburned years back in Thailand after snorkeling for too much time and forgetting to reapply sun cream. It isn’t an experience I wish to repeat!
Current tips about sun protection say you need to use at the least factor 15, though I would recommend at least SPF 30.
Protecting yourself from sunlight goes beyond getting bad sunburn though. It’s also advisable to stay well hydrated should you be traveling in a country or region with a hot or tropical climate, in addition to hide with loose clothing and a good hat or scarf.
In the event that you don’t, then dehydration can occur very quickly, and that may lead to much more serious conditions such as for example exposure, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke, which if left unattended may become a medical emergency.
I once cut a day’s sightseeing short in Egypt when I spotted the signs or symptoms of heat exhaustion developing in another traveler and had to greatly help her to get rehydrated and cooled off.
It happens much more easily than many people think so be sensible, use sunscreen, hide, and stay hydrated.
7. Get Vaccinated
Vaccinations are most likely probably the most common travel health issues that folks ask my advice on in my own capacity as a professional nurse. There is absolutely no one-size-fits-all response to those questions, however, because of the unique nature of individual circumstances, but there is one universal constant: When you can protect yourself, this is a good idea to take action.
Prevention is always much better than the cure, and there is nothing better at protecting you from the chance of getting an illness than being vaccinated against it.
Not absolutely all vaccinations are necessary for every individual for each trip, and a whole lot depends upon what vaccinations you have previously, what country or region you are visiting, and individual factors, such as for example your personal health background, how long you will end up traveling, and what you would be doing.
That is why it is essential that you will get one-on-one personal advice from your own local travel clinic, nurse specialist, or physician before you travel.
To provide you with a simple knowledge of the types of vaccinations you will require, however, they are generally split up into three distinct categories:
- Routine vaccinations will be the ones that everyone gets throughout their childhood and early adult life; specific schedules (and sometimes the vaccine administration itself) do change from country to country, but these include the BCG vaccine, the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, and vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP); hepatitis B; hepatitis A (for at-risk groups); Haemophilus influenzae type b; rotavirus; measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR); and HPV (to avoid cervical precancers and cancers). It’s important that you will be fully updated with all your routine vaccinations, including boosters, in the event that you plan to travel. In the event that you aren’t, a health professional’s office ought to be your first port of call, before even departing.
- Recommended vaccinations include all of the vaccines that aren’t contained in the routine schedule of your country and so are specific to go to any given destination. These range from vaccinations for hepatitis A (in the event that you don’t own it already), rabies, Japanese encephalitis, cholera, and typhus, amongst others.
- Required vaccinations make reference to vaccinations for yellow fever, meningococcal disease, and polio. Many countries where yellow fever exists will demand you to have proof vaccination before you are allowed in, and if you’re heading somewhere else after planing a trip to a country where these diseases can be found, you need to show proof vaccination – called an international certificate of vaccination or prophylaxis (ICVP) – before entry.
8. Protect Yourself from Mosquito Bites
Mosquito bites are a complete nightmare for just about any traveler. At best they’ll simply annoy you with painful and itchy welts, but at worst they are able to transmit a whole selection of diseases, such as for example yellow fever, dengue, Japanese encephalitis, and chikungunya, not forgetting malaria.
Mosquitoes could be a problem in many elements of the world, however the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization, and the NHS’s Fit For Travel site are great places to learn where there are outbreaks of diseases such as for example dengue or malaria.
Although you may are in a low- to no-risk area, it really is still smart to prevent mosquitoes from biting you to begin with, even if it’s and then avoid the annoyance of painful bites. It will go without saying that the great thing you can do to safeguard yourself from being bitten is by using preventive measures:
- Air-conditioned rooms are excellent for minimizing mosquito bites, because they are often better sealed and less inclined to let them in.
- Hide. Wearing the proper clothing is vital. Wear light, loose cotton clothing that covers the majority of your skin layer, especially around peak exposure times and places, for instance, near bodies of water or at twilight or at night, the peak time for malaria-carrying mosquitoes to feed.
- Sleep under permethrin-coated nets where necessary.
- Use anti-mosquito coils and plug-in devices where appropriate.
- Always apply an excellent dose of 30-50% DEET spray, and reapply it regularly. Some individuals prefer more natural alternatives, but they are often much less effective or tend to be not clinically shown to be able to all.
It is necessary to keep in mind that none of the methods is totally foolproof. That can be done everything right but still get bitten. I once caught dengue fever in India despite taking all of the usual preventive measures, and it had been the most unpleasant travel experiences of my entire life. It isn’t nicknamed “breakbone fever” for nothing! However, you can always minimize your risks with the tips above.
9. Take Antimalarials When Necessary
As a nurse, I advise people on taking antimalarials constantly, and one of the primary problems is the large amount of misinformation and fear there is surrounding this problem.
Basically speaking, if the region you are going to is considered risky for malaria then yes, antimalarials are often strongly advised. Should you be visiting an area that is clearly a low to no risk, then antimalarials aren’t usually advised.
Antimalarials are medications, and like all medications, they have unwanted effects. There isn’t one kind of antimalarial; there are a number of prophylaxes available, each which has a selection of common and rare unwanted effects.
The most crucial thing to keep in mind, however, is that every antimalarial affects differing people differently. Just because one individual develops unwanted effects, that doesn’t mean another person will. Actually, the people who have problems with severe unwanted effects are in the absolute minority. Many people is only going to suffer mild unwanted effects, and most could have none at all.
Now, knowing if they are necessary so when they aren’t is a different matter, and lots of different factors need to be taken into account. These factors are the following:
- The amount of risk in your destination
- Enough time of year you are traveling
- Whether there are any current outbreaks
- How long you are residing in any high-risk areas
- What you would be doing (spending extended amount of time in rural areas or cities, hanging out near bodies of water; other high-risk factors, etc.)
- Your individual health background
- Past experience with antimalarials
10. Schedulae an appoitment with a Travel DOCTOR
It’s important that you discuss your plans with a doctor prior to you head off on your own ‘round-the-world adventure. Many travelers instead leave it before last minute. Way too many people contact me for a scheduled appointment within my travel clinic weekly before they leave not realizing that vaccinations might need to be timed weeks apart!
The common recommended time to visit a doctor is 6-8 weeks before you leave, but personally I’d aim for just a little earlier than that, particularly if you will think you will require several vaccination or in case you have specific health issues.
The worst which will happen is that you’ll get an appointment nearer to your time and effort of departure if it’s determined that you don’t need that timeframe to get things sorted.
These very easy steps will dramatically lessen your threat of getting ill abroad, however they tend to be so simple that lots of people overlook them. Before you tripped on your own trip of an eternity, take a moment to take into account your wellbeing and prepare properly. That way it is possible to take pleasure from your trip with satisfaction.
Understand that these are health and wellness tips only, even though they are compiled by a professional nurse, they are no alternative to a consultation together with your travel health nurse or physician, where individual health issues can be discussed predicated on your individual history. Also, never set off without comprehensive travel cover. It’s always easier to be safe than sorry!
Michael Huxley is a rn from the U.K. (who’s especially thinking about emergency nursing and travel medicine) and writes about his travels on his blog Bemused Backpacker. There he blogs about backpacking, sustainable travel, and health-related issues.
Important Note: The info provided here’s for general travel health advice and information only. It really is provided by a professional nurse, but it isn’t a replacement for an individual consultation with a travel nurse specialist, your GP, or a health care provider focusing on travel medicine who can tailor advice to your own health background and needs.
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