How to Avoid Falling Sick on Vacation December 11, 2018 – Posted in: Lifestyle – Tags: , ,

You’re finally taking that long-dreamed-of vacation, and one thing’s for sure: You don’t want a bout of sickness to force you into bed rest, and missing all the fun. So you go for a flu jab, pack your diarrhoea medication and your hand sanitizer. Should you also stash a supply of helpful good bacteria? Maybe you should.

When we travel outside of our familiar environment, particularly overseas, we are at risk from a wide variety of microbes that our bodies aren’t normally exposed to. And, given that travel frequently can involve air travel, a change of time zones, lack of sleep, eating out a lot, and other stressors that we would not encounter in the familiar routine of home, our immune system is likely not working at its optimum level during that time away either.

The above combined with exposure to unfamiliar pathogens (bad microbes) is a recipe for getting sick. While getting sick could mean just a cold, a temporarily depressed immune system could also mean more severe illness too. Think traveller’s diarrhoea or TD. Not pleasant for sure as this would definitely wreck a vacation!

TD, like many domestic forms of diarrhoea, occurs when pathogenic (bad) bacteria, parasites or viruses enter the digestive system. They upset the balance of “flora,” or naturally occurring bacteria, in the gut; as the bad bacteria overcome the good guys, you get sick.

TD is characterized by four or more loose or watery bowel movements in a day; it can be accompanied by cramps, nausea, fever and other un-vacation-friendly symptoms. Most cases are caused by eating food or drinking water infected with such pathogens as E. coli. Our risk of getting TD depends largely on our destination. Developed nations = low risk, underdeveloped countries = higher risk.

We share some tips below on how to avoid falling sick during your vacation.




1. Take probiotics before, during and after the trip

In theory, populating your gut with good bacteria can help combat those disease-causing organisms. Good bacteria are known as probiotics – “pro” for good, “biotics” for microscopic living organisms – can help ward off travellers’ diarrhoea.

Begin to take probiotics daily for 2 weeks before trip. If not possible, at least 2 to 3 days before the trip. When travelling, take probiotics daily. Upon returning, continue to take probiotics daily for another 2 more weeks.


2. Watch what you eat

The general rule of thumb when traveling to another country is this: Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it.

Avoid unpasteurized milk and dairy products, including ice cream.

Avoid raw or undercooked meat, fish and shellfish.

Eat foods that are well-cooked and served hot.

Stick to fruits and vegetables that you can peel yourself, such as bananas, oranges and avocados.


3. Watch what you drink

When visiting high-risk countries, keep the following tips in mind:

Avoid unsterilized water — from tap, well or stream. If you need to consume local water, boil it for three minutes.

Avoid locally made ice cubes or mixed fruit juices made with tap water.

Order hot beverages, such as coffee or tea, and make sure they’re steaming hot.

Keep your mouth closed while showering.

Drink only canned or bottled drinks in their original containers — including water, carbonated beverages, beer or wine — as long as you break the seals on the containers yourself. Wipe off any can or bottle before drinking or pouring.

Use bottled water to brush your teeth.

Use bottled or boiled water to mix baby formula.


4. Keep your hands away from your mouth

Keep children from putting things — including their dirty hands — in their mouths. You too, should also keep your hands away from your mouth. If possible, keep infants from crawling on dirty floors.


5. Remember to self-care

Sometimes we get caught up in the excitement of travel and forgot to ensure simple things like drinking a sufficient amount of water, getting enough rest because of changing time zones, eating a balanced and nutritious diet. Travel can be hard on the body, and while you want to maximise your holiday, make sure not to do it at the expense of your own health.