Being sick is a terrible way to spend your vacation. But there are some simple steps that you can take to avoid getting sick while traveling.
These steps won’t limit your experience in any way. In fact, most of these steps are things that you can easily incorporate into your everyday life.
You’ve invested a lot of time and money into your trip. You should be able to fully enjoy it. Follow these steps to avoid getting sick while traveling.
1. Avoid touching things directly with your fingertips
There are germs on many surfaces. That means you’ll likely come into contact with germs while traveling.
If you touch those germs with your fingertips and then use those fingertips to eat something, you’re increasing the risk of getting sick from those germs.
Use a small towel or pull down a long-sleeved shirt to pick things up and open doors. Use your knuckles to press any buttons (like elevator buttons or water fountains).
And remember that the germs likely transferred to the area of your towel, shirt, or knuckles that touched the external surface. So avoid subsequently touching those areas with your fingertips.
2. Don’t touch your face
Even if you’re applying the tip above, there’s a good chance that your fingers will come into contact with germs at some point during your travels.
When you touch a surface that is contaminated with germs and then touch your eyes, nostrils, or mouth before washing your hands, you may be transferring the germs from your hands into your body.
So stop touching your face. Right now. I see you!
Touching your face with unwashed hands can be a hard habit to break. But it’s important to stop doing this if you want to avoid getting sick while traveling.
3. Sanitize communal surfaces
I carry anti-bacterial wipes with me when I travel. You can also carry sanitizing spray (just make sure it’s 3 oz or less to avoid problems with airport security).
When you reach your seat on a plane, train, boat, etc., spend some time sanitizing the surfaces. You’ll want to spend some extra time sanitizing the food tray, seatbelts, and headrest. Because ick.
Sanitize frequently touched items in your hotel room or Airbnb, too. This includes doorknobs, the toilet, sinks, remote controls, and anything else that looks iffy to you.
4. Wash your hands
You’ve likely heard it before – washing your hands is one of the best ways to prevent getting sick and to stop the spread of germs.
But apparently only 5% of people actually wash their hands for long enough to kill harmful bacteria!
To kill bacteria, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says you need to lather up with soap and scrub your hands for 20 seconds. That’s about the time it takes to hum the “happy birthday” song to yourself twice. (Or to sing it out loud to the delight of your fellow travelers.)
If you can’t wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Hand sanitizer won’t kill all harmful bacteria, so get yourself to a sink when you can.
5. Get your vaccines and location-specific medication
Before you travel internationally, check the CDC website to see if there are any recommended vaccines or medications for your destination.
If there are, head to a local travel clinic and get the recommended vaccines and medications. You can find a travel clinic simply by doing an Internet search for “travel clinic near me”.
In some cases, you won’t be able to enter your destination country without proof of a certain vaccine.
Don’t mess around with germs that are completely foreign to your immune system. Get that vaccination and stock up on any recommended medication.
6. Be mindful of the water
In some locations around the world, drinking unfiltered or tap water is one of the fastest ways to get sick.
Before you leave on your trip, do an Internet search to determine if your destination is known for contaminated drinking water.
Even if your destination is not known for contaminated drink water, be careful of the source of your water. Water sitting in airplane pipes, from rural wells, and even in the fanciest of hotels can be contaminated.
If it’s known that the drinking water is contaminated, you can either avoid it or treat it.
If avoiding the contaminated water, remember to also skip ice and soda dispensers. Don’t use the water when brushing your teeth, don’t swallow it while showering, and be careful of touching your face or food after washing your hands in the water.
If you’d like to treat (or purify) the contaminated water, some options include boiling the water, using chemical sanitization tablets, and ultraviolet light.
7. Avoid certain types of food
While food can be an essential part of an amazing trip, it can also make you incredibly ill.
There are some foods that you should skip to avoid getting sick while traveling.
In general, raw foods carry the greatest risk of contamination. This includes raw meat, pre-cut fruit/veggies, and salads.
Raw fruit/veggies carry a lesser risk if you can peel the item yourself (like oranges and bananas) or wash the fruits/veggies in purified water (like strawberries and grapes).
And while street vendors can prepare amazing food, some of them may not follow the safest cooking methods. Eat street food at your own risk.
8. Don’t stray too far from your normal diet
Traveling can already be tough on the body. Add in a bunch of food that’s unfamiliar to your digestive system? Before you know it, you’ll be spending more time in the bathroom than exploring your destination.
While I encourage you to try local foods, be mindful of the types of foods you’re incorporating into your meals.
If you normally exclude something from your diet, like gluten, red meat, sugar, etc., then you probably don’t want to incorporate it into your diet for the first time while traveling.
If you know you want to have these foods while traveling, test out similar foods at home to see how your body reacts.
And while it can be a bummer, moderation is probably going to be key to keeping your tummy happy.
9. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
The single most important thing that helps me avoid getting sick while traveling? Hydration.
I’ve found that when I’m dehydrated, I feel lethargic, my digestive system slows waaay down, and I’m much more likely to get sick.
I try to carry water bottles with me while traveling. The prettier (or more fun) the water bottle, the more likely I am to carry it with me and use it.
So after you’ve purified your water (see tips above), hydrate away!
10. Get plenty of sleep
Have you found that when you’re run down and tired, you’re more likely to get sick?
Keep your immune system in top shape by getting plenty of sleep while traveling.
While you may be tempted to burn the candle at both ends to see and do everything, you’ll have a hard time enjoying the experience if you’re sick.
Avoid getting sick while traveling by getting plenty of sleep.
While you may not always be able to avoid getting sick while traveling, I hope these tips help to decrease your chances of getting sick. Happy travels!
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Comments or Questions?
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Hi Pam. Enjoyed your tips for traveling Love your articles.. So timely
Thank you, Judy! Stay safe!
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