Getting Sick and Staying Healthy during Travel

One of our most frequently emailed questions is if we didn’t get sick on our trips*. And to this we have to respond- absolutely we got sick. It’s almost inevitable that when you’re away for a long time you will get something at some point (very much like you would eventually get a cold from someone in the office when you’re home).

Our two most common afflictions were allergy induced coughing/runny nose/itchy eyes, due to pollution, and good ol’ food poisoning.

The first is really unavoidable when you are traveling in cities that are very polluted. Really the best solution is going outside the city/ies for a while and it will go away by itself. Although we have been known to be knocked out by some Benadryl as well.

The second is avoidable, but only barely. We have to admit, most of the times we got sick were a result of eating street food/in an obviously unsanitary restaurant. We could usually pin-point the culprit after the fact. And yet, we really wouldn’t like to have to give up those experiences. So if it means the occasional 24 hour bug, so be it.

Those traveling for a shorter time period (let say a couple weeks vs. a couple months) probably DO want to be More Careful. Because being sick on a short vacation is a bummer. So to avoid this, general common sense rules apply.

Tips for Staying Healthy During Travel:

  1. Eat in places that are busy- it indicates the place is probably ok, and the food is more likely to be fresh.
  2. Avoid food stands where the oil is just sitting there. This should be a flashing exclamation point telling you to stay away.
  3. To be really safe, avoid fresh fruits and vegetables in developing countries. There is a high likelihood that they were watered with “dirty” water and your stomach is not used to the local bacteria.
  4. Drink clean water! Your best bet is to stick to bottled water, and/or you can carry iodine tablets and use those to clean your water. In certain places, like China, we also made sure to follow the local practice of drinking hot water. 

Preparing for a Healthy Trip

There are also things you can do to prepare to have a healthy trip ahead of time. These are easy to do, and we highly recommend them!

  1. Go to a Travel Medicine Clinic- These are clinics that specialize in travel to foreign countries. At the clinic you can have a consultation based on what countries you are planning to travel to. If necessary they can recommend vaccines and write prescriptions for medication you can take with you. For example, we were give a prescription for medication to take in case of altitude sickness, since we knew we would be trekking in Nepal
  2. Get recommended vaccinations – only you can be the judge on if you feel the recommended vaccinations are necessary. Think through what conditions you will be staying in, what type of healthcare you will have access to while traveling, and what time of the year you will travel to determine how necessary the vaccinations are for you
  3. Take a first aid kit! This is so, so easy to put together, and we have definitely used ours on more than one occasion. We include over the counter medication, alcohol swabs, gauze, bandaids, antibiotic cream, and a few more items depending on where we are going. This is the one of the easiest items to maintain, and we generally don’t unpack it between trips, just leave it ready to go for the next time. 
  4. Buy travel medical insurance. This is one thing we always do. You can’t be too cautious in case of an actual emergency.

What To Do If You Get Sick

There are several things you can do if you, or your kids, get sick while you travel. I can think of numerous times, that we’ve gotten colds and stomach bugs, and somehow they never ruin our trip even if we need to make some adjustments. 

So what can you do if you do get sick? Try these simple remedies; they are probably similar to the one you would use at home.

  1. Rest. Rest. Rest. And then rest some more. Really there is no quicker way to recover than to rest. If you don’t want to lie around in your hotel room (which I totally understand), go to your destination, but take it easy.
  2. Choose the easy way to tour. What do I mean? Instead of walking, take a trolley tour, or a taxi, or just find a great place to sit around and people watch.
  3. Order soup. In most places you can find a homemade soup, or caldo. Enjoy it! Also, fermented foods full of probiotics will help!
  4. Drink water. Staying hydrated is one of the best way to flush those bugs away!
  5. Use natural remedies, use medications. Those items you’ve been carrying around in your first aid kit- this is what they’re for. Use them!

What do you do to stay healthy when traveling abroad?

*We rarely blog about our ailments while on the road because we don’t want people to worry back home, and generally by the time we’re at a computer, said ailment is gone. Also, we don’t think people read our travel blog to hear us complain about how we got sick.

Preparing for a healthy vacation trip while traveling graphic

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