How to Prevent & Treat 5 Common Travel Illnesses

How to Prevent & Treat 5 Common Travel Illnesses

Imagine: during the mission trip you’ve been planning for a year and a half, you’re barreled over the toilet with a throbbing headache. All you’ve done so far on the trip is sleep and soak your sheets with sweat.

The only thing worse than getting sick is getting sick while traveling.

It’s easy to get sick during travel: you’re in tight spaces with strangers in an environment your body isn’t used to. During travel, you experience changes in diet, climate, and activity levels. Combined, this compromises your immune system, regardless of general health or vaccinations.

Don’t let the travel bugs ruin your next trip. Here are a few tips on how to prevent and treat five common traveling ails:

1. Motion Sickness

Motion sickness is most likely to occur during extended periods of travel in any moving vehicle, regardless of its mode of transportation (land, air, or water).

How to Prevent:

  • Eat light meals before long commutes.
  • Focus your eyes ahead.
  • Avoid reading or screen watching during transit.
  • Take Dramamine 24-hours before your journey begins.

How to Treat:

  • Get some fresh air. Breathe deeply and slowly.
  • Lie on your right side.
  • Rest your eyes.
  • Drink a sweet, fizzy drink like ginger ale.

2. Jet Lag

You might not consider jet lag a sickness, but it sure puts a damper on your travels if you develop it. Those who quickly cross several time zones without adjusting their biological clock are most prone to developing severe jet lag.

Pro tip: The most natural ways to adjust your inner clock are through changing eating and sleeping patterns!

How to Prevent:

  • Fast on your flight, if traveling west-to-east (arriving in the morning).
  • Take melatonin upon arrival, if traveling west-to-east (arriving in the evening).

How to Treat:

  • Bask in the sun.
  • Sleep when the sun goes down.
  • Avoid long naps during the day.
  • Eat when the locals do.

3. Traveler’s Diarrhea

Traveler’s diarrhea affects your digestive tract, causing nausea and abdominal cramps. It develops from exposure to bacteria that linger on contaminated foods and surfaces.

How to Prevent:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Drink clean water.
  • Avoid eating foods from street vendors.
  • Only eat well-cooked foods.
  • Rinse fresh produce before eating.

How to Treat:

  • Eat bland foods.
  • Stay hydrated with clean water.
  • Take Pepto Bismol for mild cases.

4. Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness typically occurs when an individual ascends to a higher altitude in a short period of time. Those mountain hiking or visiting a destination high above sea-level are most susceptible to developing altitude sickness.

How to Prevent:

  • Avoid immediate physical exertion upon arrival.
  • Ascend gradually once past 8,000 feet above sea level.
  • Eat foods high in carbohydrates.
  • Breathe fully and deeply.

How to Treat:

  • Drink water.
  • Stop and rest.
  • Descend 1,000 to 2,000 feet, if possible.

5. Dehydration

Dehydration can affect anyone, especially if you’re unable to access clean water. If you listen to queues from your body and remind yourself to drink throughout the day, dehydration is simple to avoid.

How to Prevent:

  • Drink water from a filtered bottle.
  • Compensate sweating with more water.
  • Stay in shaded areas outside.
  • Avoid strenuous labor during midday.

How to Treat:

  • Drink plenty of clean water.
  • Get out of the sun.
  • Lie down and rest.
  • Take Advil to relieve severe headaches.

Staying healthy is important for enjoying your travels. Make sure to wash your hands, stay hydrated, and get plenty of rest to avoid most common traveling ailments.

If a more serious medical issue arises during your travels, you’ll want to purchase travel insurance to cover unforeseen expenses. 

Skylar loves to write. She's cruised the Caribbean, sailed the Mediterranean, and toured the United States. Disney inspires her, and she dreams of living in the mountains.

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