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How to Stay Safe and Healthy When Traveling

How to Stay Healthy on Vacation

You have planned your vacation for months to get away from it all, relax and enjoy new experiences. Few things can be worse than ending up sick or injured and missing out on everything you have been looking forward to. Here is how to stay healthy on vacation.

How to Stay Healthy on Vacation by Preventing Colds and Flu

We have all heard that travelers are prone to catching colds and flu. This is because of the close contact with others in crowded planes, trains, buses and other public places.

Consider a flu shot before going on holiday. Build up your immune system with vitamin supplements, especially vitamin C.

Wash your hands with soap and water regularly and have a pack of hand sanitizer in your bag in case washing facilities are not readily available.

How to Stay Healthy on Vacation by Knowing About Diseases Specific to the Country You Are Visiting

Preventive measures will depend on which country you will be visiting. You can use the CDC traveler's health destination tool which provides information on required vaccines, travel health notices and other tips on how to stay healthy and safe in specific countries. You can also visit your nearest travel health clinic or your own doctor.

Take precautions against bug-bites, especially in the evenings. Apply a good quality insect repellent and wear a long sleeve shirt, long pants and closed shoes.

Avoiding Traveler’s Diarrhea

Follow food and water precautions carefully. Traveler’s diarrhea can have more serious consequences for seniors than for younger adults.

While novel culinary experiences are one of the pleasures of travel, do not overdo it. Eat foods that you are used to for at least some of your meals, especially if you have a sensitive stomach.

Make sure that the food is fresh. Fruits and vegetables that you can wash and peel yourself are a good option. Make sure that food is cooked through and piping hot. Rather give street vendors a miss if you have any doubts.
Ask whether the tap water is safe to drink in the area you’re visiting. Stick to bottled water if you are unsure.

Medications and Aids

  • Visit your doctor of clinic well in advance and get an up to date prescription of all your regular medication.
  • Some of your medicines might be banned in another country –check on this by calling your destination’s embassy.
  • Take your prescription along - keep it safely with your travel documents.
  • Carry a card listing, in the local language, your chronic conditions, generic names of your medications, allergies and blood type. Wear a medic-alert bracelet if you have a serious medical condition.
  • Keep your medicines in their original containers and provide for a few extra days in case an unplanned event extends your stay.
  • Carry your medicines in your hand luggage as getting separated from your checked in baggage is always a possibility.

Pack over the counter medicines to treat common ailments. This might spare you a lot of frustration. Include pills and ointments for aches and pains, motion sickness, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, colds and flu, and allergies. Also do not forget to pack a sunscreen to protect your skin.
Before you leave home, make sure that you have your dentures, glasses or contact lenses and hearing aids. It is always a good idea to take spares if you have them.


You need more fluids than usual if you are being more active and particularly if you are travelling in an area where the heat and humidity are higher than what you are used to.

Headache and tiredness are usually the first signs of dehydration. If this is followed by nausea and vomiting it could be a sign of heat exhaustion which can be life-threatening

Make a point of drinking enough fluids. Water is the best choice. Caffeine, sugary drinks and alcohol can contribute to dehydration.

Healthy Eating

Travelers tend to under-eat during the day and then overindulge in the evenings. Ensure good nourishment throughout the day. If you are being more active than at home you might even need to eat a bit more than usual.

Fast foods or restaurants for every meal can cause bloating, indigestion and general tiredness. Travel with some snacks in your bag. These can be fruits, nuts and other local fresh produce are a good choice.

Physical Activity

With travelling and sightseeing, you will probably be more active than at home. If you do not exercise regularly, consider getting fitter in the weeks before you leave so you can keep up with everything you want to see and do. Exercise also boosts your immune system.

Long hours of sitting on planes, or in buses and cars, increase the risk of a blood clot in your legs (deep vein thrombosis). This is especially true for older people. Stretch and move at least every hour and consider compression socks if your feet tend to swell while travelling.

Get Enough Sleep

Do not skimp on your sleep while trying to fit in as much as possible during your vacation. Being on the move all day, followed by late nights, will soon leave you mentally and physically exhausted.

This will not only take the enjoyment out of the rest of your holiday, but also lower your immune system and could lead to accidents.

Safety Tips to Avoid Injuries

To know how to stay healthy on vacation, here are some things to avoid:

  • Avoid self-drive holidays in another country unless you’re confident that you know their rules of the road. Public transport, or hiring a driver, is much safer.
  • Read and follow all the safety guidelines and warnings for tourists and visitors to different areas. Ask if you are not sure.
  • Make sure you are fit enough before you join excursions and adventure activities. Read the precautions and make sure the activity is offered by a credentialed and qualified guide or instructor, follow all instructions and wear the recommended safety gear.
  • Wear proper walking shoes, especially when out in nature. Do not hesitate to use a walking stick to help maintain your balance and avoid falls.

What if You Get Sick or Injured?

You might follow all the advice for staying healthy while on vacation but still run out of luck and need medical attention. The CDC recommends that you do your homework and plan beforehand for this eventuality.

Firstly, you should not travel, especially to a foreign country, without travel medical insurance. Tour guides, accommodation establishments and information centers can usually guide you to the nearest doctor, hospital or clinic. However, this might be to public health services where you will have to wait your turn and there might not be anyone who speaks your language.

You can download the app Air Doctor on your mobile phone which will direct you to a private doctor or specialist nearest to your location. All the doctors are vetted and where possible, speak your language.

Now You Know How to Stay Healthy on Vacation

Take steps to prevent sickness and injury, and annoyances around medication. Eat healthy foods, drink plenty of water and get enough movement, rest and sleep. Plan what you will do if you need medical attention.

We hope you enjoy your vacation!