Traveling beyond the world we’re used to and discovering something unfamiliar is one of the most exciting things we can do. There’s nothing like meeting people while trying new food and new experiences. However, there’s one bad thing about traveling: potential illness. Germs are everywhere and traveling can dramatically increase the chance that a person gets sick. Thankfully, there are several steps that anyone can use to ensure they stay healthy and enjoy their trip to the fullest.
When you travel, especially if you use any forms of public transportation, you expose yourself to a variety of germs and bacteria. Once you arrive at your destination, you’re probably spending a significant amount of time around other people from a variety of places. You may touch ATMs, door handles, or ticket kiosks that act as bacteria transmitters. That’s not including particularly dirty areas like bathrooms. The best way to avoid illness is by washing your hands frequently or relying on hand sanitizer after touching potentially dirty objects.
Traveling via airplane, bus, or train is perhaps the easiest way to get sick while on a trip. Each is essentially a sealed metal tube full of strangers carrying a wide variety of bacteria. A 2008 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigation found that armrests of aisle seats on airplanes are particularly dirty. A massive number of people touch them and most don’t have clean hands. Plus, the air conditioning may be blowing bacteria onto you. However, some studies have found that the air vent may be providing a protective cone by blowing bacteria-filled air away from you. Your best option is to point the air conditioning towards your lap. Also, clean your hands after touching areas that others often touch. If that’s not viable, make sure not to touch your mouth, nose, or eyes before you can wash your hands.
One of the best parts of traveling is enjoying new drinks and foods. However, even if you’re just crossing state lines, there’s a decent chance that unbottled food and beverages can get you sick. Even standard drinks such as coffee or water may come in dirty glasses. Especially if you’re in a different country, it’s important to drink from bottles as much as possible. However, it may be necessary to clean the tops of the bottles, just in case. Additionally, drinking lots of bottled water can help you stay hydrated, which will allow your body to better fight infections.
When you arrive at your destination, you’re going to feel excited and want to do everything you can to make the most of your trip. However, sleep is one of the most important parts of avoiding illness. Lack of sleep has a variety of effects and a weakened immune system is one of the most common. Even if you feel like you need to pack as much as you can into your vacation, take the time to get a good night’s rest.
Just as beverages can carry diseases, so can ice. If you have any doubts about the water, don’t use the ice in that area. This includes fountain drinks. Many people believe that fountain drink dispensers are safe because they have standard beverages or look clean from the outside. Some people also believe that bacteria can’t exist in cold environments. However, many investigations have found that restaurant ice machines are among the dirtiest places in the restaurant due to improper or infrequent cleaning.
One of the biggest joys of traveling is finding and trying foods that aren’t available back home. However, this may not always be the best choice. Our bodies are extremely complex and become accustomed to certain diets. Dramatic changes to diet can cause many issues, including nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, and many other conditions that may ruin a trip. While it’s okay to experiment with food, make sure to occasionally eat something that’s within your comfort zone.
If you look at any travel guide, you’ll probably find beautiful lakes and majestic rivers that are just asking for you to dive in. Unfortunately, natural bodies of water are literal breeding grounds for bacteria. Even water that looks crystal clear and clean can be dangerous. This includes public pools, especially at hotels. Even if a pool contains chlorine, employees may not be cleaning them properly and they can carry illnesses. While you’ll probably be fine, it may not be a good choice to go swimming if you’re concerned about illness.
Respiratory illnesses are usually the biggest threat when traveling. They pass from one person to another easily and you may never be aware that you encountered any dangerous bacteria. However, the CDC found that N95 respirator masks can be up to 90% effective in preventing infections. Even simple disposable face masks can cut the chances that you’ll contract an illness. Simply wear it in high-risk areas like airplanes, buses, trains, and their respective stations. While you may look silly for a bit, it’s worth it if you can avoid being sick while enjoying your trip.
One of the best pieces of advice anyone can receive is “use sunblock.” However, many people still under-utilize sunblock and sun-resistant moisturizers. Sunburn can seriously ruin an otherwise ideal journey and it can sneak up on you. However, protecting yourself against the sun goes beyond using sunblock. Make sure to drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration, especially in sunnier locales.
If you’re trying to avoid getting sick while on a trip, some of the simplest things you can do are to trust your instincts and use common sense. When looking for a place to eat, avoid restaurants that are completely empty. When walking around the city or using public transit, don’t get too close to a person who’s sniffling and coughing. If a hotel room looks dirty or unclean, it probably is. Ultimately, you’re the only one who understands how easily you get sick, so you’ll know best how careful you need to be.