Travel is a special gift to give to yourself and your family, and can do wonders for mental and physical health. But lack of proper preparation can totally derail a perfectly planned vacation. Once you’ve made it away, definitely spend time decompressing, but do remember to be aware of the usual ways to become ill or injured on vacation so you can do your best to avoid them.
Things to Do Ahead of Time to Stay Healthy
- Check in with your doctor to find out if your vacation destination requires you to be vaccinated ahead of time. Common vaccinations include those against typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, cholera, yellow fever, rabies, and influenza. Your doctor can also help with advice on avoiding infections such as Japanese encephalitis, cholera and traveller’s diarrhea.
- Pack a travel health kit. Hopefully all it does is take up space in your suitcase, but if you end up needing it, you’ll be grateful you have it. This Government of Canada page has a comprehensive list of items to bring, which includes first aid supplies, medications and additional items such as water purification tablets or a filter, sunscreen and ear plugs. It is also recommended you carry a card with the contact information of a friend or family member at home, the name of your health care provider, your travel insurance information and where you are staying.
Things To Do While at Your Vacation Destination to Avoid Illness
- Keep your hands clean. This is by far the best way to avoid illness. Wash thoroughly with soap and water as much as possible for at least 20 seconds, and don’t forget between your fingers and under your nails. Keep a healthy supply of hand sanitizer and hand wipes with you at all times, too, for when there isn’t a sink available.
- Stay away from tap water and stick with bottled water when traveling in areas such as Mexico, South America, Asia (although Brunei, Israel, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Singapore all have safe water) and Africa. Illnesses that can be found in bad water include typhoid, hepatitis A, cholera, and traveler’s diarrhea. To be very safe, even use bottled water when brushing your teeth and ask for drinks with no ice in them. If bottled water is unavailable, boil tap water for at least 60 seconds before drinking.
- Watch what you eat. Be wary of uncooked foods such as salads, and although it’s very tempting, it’s best to avoid food from street vendors as well.
- Be very careful in the sun. A sunburn can really derail a vacation, plus make you sick with headaches, the chills, fatigue, and, yes, pain. Use a waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and apply often.
- Also take care to regulate your body heat. Those of us from Canada can forget just how hot others countries can become. It’s imperative to protect your head from the sun with a hat at all times, wear loose, light-colored clothing and stay hydrated by drinking lots of (bottled) water.
- Insect repellant is also a must. Mosquitoes pass along illnesses such as dengue fever, malaria, and the Zika virus, and ticks, fleas or flies can also pass along diseases.
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