A young man that is sick while traveling around the world.

Vacation ruined by illness?

Here’s how to avoid a repeat.

Ever been sick on vacation?  Miserable, isn’t it?  

You feel terrible, you can see your precious annual leave wasting away, and you have to watch everyone else visit the sights you’ve ended up paying a fortune to not see.

While we can’t guarantee you’ll never get sick, you can reduce the risk of holiday ruin.

Before you go

Build in a buffer: Stress and tiredness dampen our immune system. And yet ‘stressed and tired’ is often exactly how we feel by the time we’re done working and about to head away.  If you can, try taking an extra day off before your flight – it’ll give your body time to rebalance before you jet off again.

Get informed: Check online for any health warnings for your destination and to make sure you’ve had all the shots you need.

Pack the health essentials: Not the whole medicine cabinet, but enough to avoid the mad mid-vacation search for a pharmacy and the Spanish word for “gastroenteritis.”  Band-aids, aspirin, antidiarrheals and rehydration tablets are a good start. 

Better safe than sorry.  Foreign hospital bills can be eye-watering, and if you’re in the ER, you’re in no position to be negotiating.  Don’t run the risk – make sure you have sufficient insurance cover.

In the air

Stories of the germ-infestation on planes, or the horrors of recycled air, are often overblown: in fact, plane air is filtered, and there are probably more germs on your office desk than that tray table.

But the dryness of plane air can mean we’re more vulnerable to catching something.  If we’re dehydrated, the body’s systems for stopping germs getting into our lungs work less well.  So make sure you stay well-watered (and not just on alcohol!) until you land.

While you’re away

Sanitation in many countries is now much better than it was, but always check that the water where you are is drinkable. 

If you’re unsure, take care around tap water-washed salads, ice cubes, and so on, and get yourself a filter water bottle – it’ll remove 99% of bacteria from tap water and mean you can still avoid environmentally-unfriendly plastic-bottled water.

Beyond that, it’s the basics.  Wash your hands, don’t overdo the alcohol, use insect repellent, etc, etc.

Oh, and as Baz Luhrmann once said …

Wear Sunscreen