Being sick while you’re away is the absolute worst, especially if you’re solo or somewhere you can’t speak the language. Take it from me, you should be taking all the precautions to avoid getting sick, hurt and stuck somewhere you don’t want to be.
Having hospitalized myself not once not twice, but three times in the space if two years backpacking, perhaps you shouldn’t be taking health advice from me. On the other hand, I could say that I now have sufficient experience in knowing what not to do, because let’s face it, I’ve done it all.
In this article, I’m going to outline some precautionary measures you should take to stop yourself getting sick while traveling
Vaccinations are so important. It’s really tempting to just avoid them because a) they are painful and b) they can be expensive. Never the less these vaccinations protect you against diseases that are very serious and I strongly advise people to sort out their vaccinations at least 6 weeks before traveling. I never got my rabies shots and on a trip to India had the bad luck of getting bitten by dogs, twice. Luckily they weren’t rabid, but it was a very risky situation, one that could have been easily avoided
Note: to gain entry to some countries you may need a to have a yellow fever jab this his especially true if you are traveling from a country where yellow fever is prevalent. No vaccination certificate means no entry. Check here for a list of countries requiring you to be vaccinated against yellow fever.
The natural flora in your gut can help protect you against nasty intestinal infections, however, many people have compromised flora due to poor diet. Toughen up your gut with a probiotic diet consisting of fermented foods such as saur kraut or of you’re really lazy just get a pill from your local health food store.
Backpackers diets can get pretty awful after a while, fatty street food, comforting pizza, beer, when you put your body through all that you cant blame it for craving salad. But… DONT DO IT. A freaking salad made me miss my plane to London and get stuck for a week in Guatemala while I was supposed to be at work. What could I have done? Listened to the advice or nearly every single traveler ever. Next time swear to God all I’m gonna eat is crisps.
This may seem counter-intuitive but busy local restaurants have a higher turnover in produce, this means that unlike in a fancy restaurant, your steak won’t be waiting for days before someone can afford to eat it! Fresh food = fewer bugs, however it’s more likely that local places have slightly lower sanitation and may wash their raw food in tap water, so again, no salads.
If you get sick with deli belly it’s really important to get plenty if fluids in you, half the reason you feel so awful is down to dehydration. Avoid fizzy drinks and juices that are acidic if you are vomiting. Drinking sports drinks is a good idea because of the electrolytes, or you can buy oral rehydration caches from the pharmacy (which taste kinda gross). If you’re having problems keeping your liquids down, you can go to a local hospital for an IV saline drip, that should sort you right out but takes a couple of hours.
Carry a hand sanitizer in your bag, it will come in useful if you’ve just been in a dubious public restroom or if you’re about to eat at a street food place with dirty hands. Hand sanitizer kills moist bacteria, however, washing your hands with soap is more effective.
Because your diet changes drastically while traveling, you may develop deficiencies in certain vitamins. Vitamins and minerals such as Vit C and zinc help strengthen your immunity, for this reason, it could be a good idea to carry some vitamins in your backpack.
If these tips fail and you still end up getting sick try not to panic, it happens to everyone, however, if you start to feel really rough though, or if symptoms persist 3 days or more, then ask at your hostel for the number of an English speaking Doctor and get them to do a home visit. In situations where this isn’t possible, then get yourself to a hospital ASAP.
Lastly, I want to stress the importance if getting good travel insurance before your trip, they can save you an absolute headache, not to mention thousands of pounds worth of hospital fees and missed flights. Later I will add an article on how yo choose a good travel insurance, but until then do your research and check out price comparison sites to find the best deals.