The Consummate Traveler–Preventing Common Travel Ailments

April 22, 2015 Updated: March 25, 2019

Staying healthy while traveling, especially in remote international locations, should always be a top priority. I am sure we have all had the dreaded experience of getting sick while on vacation, and spending days in bed while others are out having fun. Although catching a virus is usually out of our control, there are several common travel ailments that may be completely avoidable. With the summer travel season fast approaching, I thought it would be a good idea to review some key tips on this subject.

Tan your skin responsibly – Years ago I traveled with a friend who would insist on spending the first
day of our tropical vacation on the beach all day without an umbrella or sun protection. Needless to say, they would get extremely ill with a horrible sunburn, fever, and nausea that lasted for days. The important point here is that this recipe for disaster was completely preventable. If at all possible, a month prior to your trip you should begin to expose your skin to the sun for ten minutes a day in order to build up your natural base tan and tolerance. Otherwise, keep your direct sun exposure to short bursts while on the beach, or plan your main activities in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is not as strong.

Don’t change your medication – It is never a good idea to try a new medication or different dose of a
medication just prior to or during a trip. After all, your body may have an adverse reaction to it that you may not expect. I had this happen on a business trip with a colleague of mine. During our voyage home, she became delirious and fell ill at the airport security checkpoint. Although I was there and able to take care of her, had she been alone it could have been a very different outcome. Days later we learned that she had a reaction to a new dose of the medication she was on.

Go easy on street food –Although this advice can apply to everyone, it is especially true for those
who are aware that they have a sensitive stomach. Always proceed with great caution when visiting international cities known for their street food. No matter how exotic and delicious a food may look, remember that there can be local cooking methods, spices, and bacteria that may not agree with you and take you down for several days. If you find yourself with an upset stomach or traveler’s diarrhea, take along a supply of activated charcoal tablets to settle the stomach.

As always, I wish you all the happiest of travels!