Top 5 Ways Travel Can Make You Sick (and how to prevent it)

woman airplane seat afraidTravel is supposed to be relaxing, but all too often it can make you (literally) ill. Below are the top 5 causes to illness when you’re on the road – and what you can do to help prevent it.

1. Transportation Hubs
Think about this: Grand Central Station in New York gets 3/4 of a million customers passing through every single day. LAX airport in Los Angeles averages 241,000 souls each day. How many in that sloshing sea of humanity wash their hands? Sneeze into their elbows? Travel even though they have the flu? And you can glove-up to avoid touching anything as much as possible, but once you’re on that plane, you’re breathing everyone’s air.

Now What? Before you ever leave, just make sure you’re up to date on your flu shots, and bring common medicines like ibuprophen, etc., because you may or may not be able to find those medications if you’re traveling overseas. Finally, bring a little squirt of hand sanitizer with you when you’re in the station or terminal waiting on your ride.

2. Location, Location, Location
Some viruses and pathogens are very region-specific, so be very aware of the area of the world you travel to, such as malaria, typhoid, zika, etc.
Now What? A quick google search will reveal whether there are harmful viruses, bacteria, or mosquito-borne illnesses that are endemic to your travel destination. You can also consult the CDC for a comprehensive list of travel notices to get a list of these and their recommended vaccines.

Pic of a person drinking from a water bottle.3. Careful About The Water

Not all areas have the same clean-water standards. If this is the case, you might need to actually live in this area for a while to buildup resistance to the bugs that may be in there. Essentially, if you have been drinking clean tap water, your gut wouldn’t be accustomed to the novel strain of microbes.

Now What? Go back to the CDC again. They have resources that can show you which water is safe to drink from at your destination. If it’s not, stick to bottled water. That said, if you end up getting sick while traveling, monitor your symptoms closely. Diarrhea may be very harmful, for dehydration but also if you get blood in your stool, or develop a fever, seek medical attention right away.

4. Stick to your medication schedule

It’s easy to miss a bit of your medication schedule, even while at home within the pattern of your normal routine. But when traveling it can be far more important to keep to your schedule. The tricky part will be if you’re going across several time zones, and need to stay compliant.
Now What? If at all possible, keep your meds with you, not in your checked bags in case someone loses your luggage or canceled flights leave you stranded in the airport. If you are going across time zones, consult your doctor to make sure your updated schedule is good to go.
5. Leisure Sickness?
Instagram pics of people in Fiji, Italy, and French Polynesia are so staged to look so very relaxing. And they definitely can be. However, getting there can be mentally stressful, and physically taxing on your body producing what one groups of scientists call “leisure sickness”. The increased stress makes you more vulnerable to infection. 

Now What? Physical and mental stress can happen any time at all. If you’re prepared for it — or even if you just recognize it for what it is — it becomes easier to manage in flight (so to speak, lol).  Understanding that travel-related stressors can happen can help you get past it, hopefully, before you get to your desitnation.


This post is adapted from this article.


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