They say the beauty of travel is in its uncertainty, but they probably weren’t referring to potential holiday health hazards. Here are some handy tips for staying healthy while traveling abroad.
1. Keep your mouth shut
Any water you drink or use to brush your teeth must come from a sealed bottle that you open. Ice was not an issue in the bush, but that too should be prepared from bottled water. When you take a shower or swim in a pool, keep your mouth shut.
2. Pop pills before meals
Before every meal, chew one pink tablet of bismuth subsalicylate (sold as Pepto-Bismol and various store brands).
A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association described how two tablets chewed four times a day reduced the risk of developing diarrhoea by 65 per cent. (Each tablet contained the standard dose, 262 milligrams of bismuth subsalicylate.)
*If you choose to try this preventive, first check with your doctor.
3. Don’t miss the shots
MaKe sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines. You can check recommendations for destinations on http://cdc.gov/travel.
4. Pack a first-aid kit
Pack an ample supply of essentials such as sunscreen, insect repellent with 20 per cent or more of Deet, and a first-aid kit of hydrocortisone cream, antibiotic ointment and a variety of bandages.
5. Flex those legs and ankles
There is a risk of blood clots when flying long distances. Book an aisle seat so you can get up every hour or so and walk around for a minute.
It also helps to move your legs and flex your ankles frequently.
You can wear graduated compression stockings on long trips. Similar precautions apply to long car or train trips.
Although the risk of clots is generally very small, they can be life-threatening. At greatest risk are people over 40, those who are obese or pregnant or have limited mobility (for example, because of a leg cast) or who have a personal or family history of clots.
6. Get insured
Always buy travel health and medical evacuation insurance.
7. Carry a prescription card
Consider carrying a card that lists your blood type, any chronic illnesses or serious allergies and the generic names of prescription medicines you take. Bring extra doses in case of travel delays.
8. Avoid wading in water
To avoid parasitic diseases such as schistosomiasis, do not swim or wade in fresh water in developing countries or wherever the sanitation is poor. Pools should be chlorinated.
9. Don’t get too close to animals
However adorable an animal (domestic or wild) may be, keep your distance. Do not touch or feed any animal you do not know. Some carry rabies. Should you get bitten or scratched by an animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and clean water and, if at all possible, get to a doctor quickly.
10. Prepare for the highs
If you expect to be at a high altitude, consult your doctor about medicine to prevent altitude sickness. The recommended preventive is acetazolamide (generic version of Diamox).
By Jane E. Brody, The Sunday Times, 6 March 2016