As inspiring and enlightening as travel can be, it can also be taxing on our bodies. With a little planning and common sense, however, it doesn’t have to be. Whether you’re headed on a three-day business trip or a round-the-world adventure, with a bit of planning, research and preparation you can greatly improve your odds in the battle against foreign germs.
Prepare and prevent
If you’re travelling to a foreign country, visit a travel medical clinic about six weeks before departure to learn about and receive proper immunizations for your destination. “One of the biggest mistakes is not knowing the difference between required and recommended vaccines,” says Beatrix Morrallee, nurse manager at Passport Health Canada, a travel health specialist with offices across Canada, the United States and Mexico. “Required vaccines are needed to get into some countries, even if the traveller is not in an actual risk area.”
While it may be tempting to put off getting shots, don’t procrastinate, advises Anton Harizanov from TravelMed clinic in Toronto. “Vaccines may require time to become fully effective and some vaccines may require more than one shot for increased or long-term protection.”
Watch your mouth
It’s an unfortunate irony that one of the main attractions of travel can also pose the biggest risk: food. Even if you’re just in the country for a couple of days on business, tasting the local cuisine might be a highlight of the trip. Regardless of where you’re going, there are two general rules to follow: Make sure whatever you eat is both fully cooked and still hot, and if you are going to eat fruit or vegetables (and you probably should) choose ones with thick skins – and then peel them yourself.
Do your research
The travel clinic you visit should have up-to-date, destination-specific advice, but don’t stop your research there. There may be different risks in other countries that are not common or present in Canada,” Mr. Harizanov says. He recommends looking to reputable online sources of information, “the Centre for Disease Control website provides information in a succinct, understandable way that can help individuals understand the risks related to their destination.” If you prefer homegrown advice, the Public Health Agency of Canada is your best bet.
“My biggest advice to avoid getting sick, avoid germs that cause disease,” says Denny Knezevska, Travel Clinic Nurse Consultant at Islington Medical and Travel Clinic in Toronto. Simply put, hand sanitizer should be your constant travel companion. Along with your hands, wipe down airplane armrests and tray tables. Also, avoid digging around in seat pockets or anywhere else strange hands might have touched.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
It’s always good advice to drink water, but staying hydrated is especially important when you travel. According to a study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research, one of the reasons we often get sick on airplanes is the extremely low humidity of the cabin. The dryness can weaken our ability to make mucus, which is our body’s natural first line of defence. That said, it’s also important to hydrate safely when travelling abroad. Drink bottled or boiled water, and be wary of food that was washed in local tap water, too.