Common Travel Health Problems and Quick Remedies3 min read
While traveling internationally, you might be planning on fun and relaxation or making progress in business meetings. But what you might not be planning on is that travel posing risks to your health.
Between germs in airports, poor food quality, and bug bites, health problems can arise no matter where you’re traveling. Some of the more common travel health issues actually have a variety of quick remedies that may not even require the help of a doctor.
If you do find yourself dealing with these common health problems while traveling, here are ways to treat yourself.
This is the most common illness effecting travelers. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 20 to 50 percent of international travelers develop traveler’s diarrhea each year – that’s an estimated 10 million people. Traveler’s diarrhea is usually triggered by ingesting bacteria that your body isn’t already immune to – especially bacterium from the E. Coli family.
Remedy: If you do find yourself suffering from this health issue, you should make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids and electrolytes to prevent becoming dehydrated. You should also be eating probiotic foods like yogurt, or take a Lactobacillus acidophilus supplement. Everything else you eat should be starchy, such as plain rice, bread, or bananas. Be sure to avoid spicy or acidic foods, and fruits.
International travel means long flights and different time zones. All of that adds to up you having jet lag, which can disrupt your circadian rhythms and cause fatigue, a weaker immune system, and even mild depression.
Remedy: Use discipline to force your body to get accustomed to the new routine faster. That involves waiting until the proper times to sleep and eat. Don’t lay down in the middle of the afternoon and don’t snack at odd times.
You should also make sure you’re exposing yourself to plenty of sunshine and bright light. This will help your body adjust its melatonin levels.
Avoiding caffeine can also help you adjust – your body’s internal clock is already in turmoil, adding this stimulant is going to confuse it more.
Certain destinations are homes to an array of insects. While most of these bugs are just an annoyance, mosquitoes can transmit diseases, including dengue fever, if they bite you. In addition, if those itchy bites become over-scratched, they can turn into infected sores.
Remedy: Avoid bringing food and open snacks into your room; any dropped crumbs can attract bugs. When you leave your room, turn your lights off inside and out – the heat and light can attract additional insects. When you venture outside your room, make sure you apply insect repellent and reapply it every three hours.
If you’re going to be spending time outside walking around and seeing the sights, you could end your day feeling the effects of too much sun exposure. Even if you aren’t planning on sitting on a beach, you’re still prone to sunburn if you’ll be outside.
Remedy: Use a higher level SPF and reapply more often than you would at home. In destinations closer to the equator, the sun is stronger than you’re used to.
If you get a scratch, blister, or bug bite, no matter how tiny it is, while traveling abroad, it has the potential to turn into an infected sore. Jet lag weakening your immune system, a potentially humid environment and possibly dirty conditions can all add to the amount of time it takes for a small injury to heal.
If it does turn into an infection and is left untreated, it can turn septic and evolve into severe fevers that require antibiotics. Because of that, you should prevent infection in the first place by treating small injuries more seriously than you would at home.
Remedy: You should make sure your tetanus shot is up to date before traveling; this vaccination will last you 10 years. If you get a scrape or cut, treat it immediately by thoroughly cleaning and bandaging it. Keep a Band Aid on it during the day and remove it at night. You should also keep “hot spots” covered before they turn into blisters. You can also cover bug bites to prevent you from scratching them.
Photo from gapyear.com.