Op (world) trip is often the result of months of planning and save for your trip† It is probably one of those rare moments in your life where you can really relax and enjoy the freedom. Completely away from home, from work and the bad weather. So why risk getting sick? You're not going to waste all that effort because of an unexpected illness, are you? Dangers for the health are part of almost every trip but with the right precautions before and during your trip, it is entirely possible to avoid getting sick.
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1. Get the right vaccinations
Your first priority when traveling around the world is to ensure that you are protected against common diseases. First check that you have already had all standard, routine vaccinations and that they are still effective. Think of standard vaccinations such as those for diphtheria, tetanus and polio (DTP) and those for mumps, measles and rubella (MMR). This may require booster vaccinations.
And whether you are for or against covid-19 vaccinations, without this jab you will not get far in the world, so you will have to take that too.
The best way to do this is to make an appointment with Vaccinations While Traveling or the GGD. They can advise you exactly what you need specifically for your world trip. It is important to allow sufficient time (6 months before your world trip is a good starting point), as some injections, such as vaccination against cholera, require two doses. Also make sure to check if there are any medications you need to take while travelling, such as anti-malaria tablets.
2. Prepare for the plane trip
You don't want to ruin your vacation before it has started by arriving at your destination feeling uneasy or tired. So it's important to make sure you're well prepared. Long air travel is known to have a negative effect on you health, but even short flights can be dangerous. The effects of air travel on the body range from dehydration and restlessness to (possibly fatal) deep vein thrombosis.
Do your best to ensure you are fully rested in the days leading up to your flight. Consider boosting your immune system by taking a healthy dose of multivitamins, eating a healthy diet the week before, and making sure you're fully hydrated when you board the plane. As tempting as it may be, especially if you're a nervous flier. Stay away from alcohol as the combination of alcohol and altitude can wipe out all your preparation in a few glasses. Alcohol increases your chances of getting sick – just skip that glass of beer or wine if you have a flight planned.
3. Avoid tap water
Regardless of your destination, avoiding tap water is always a good idea when you go on vacation. There are many locations around the world where it is unsafe to drink tap water, but even in the countries where it is technically safe, the water can upset your stomach. This is due to the different balance of minerals and chemicals in the local water, as well as the different purification methods used.
The easiest way to avoid problems is to use bottled water, but that is both potentially expensive and bad for the environment. If you want a practical and ecological way to stay away from single-use plastic bottles, there are plenty of other options to consider. There is a wide variety of filter bottles on the market that remove nearly 100 percent of microbiological contaminants, chlorine, fluoride and heavy metals. Consider purchasing a filter bottle for your world trip.
4. Wash your hands with Antibacterial Gel
Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water is the most effective way to clean them. Clean hands prevent you from getting sick, it's that simple. This is because it removes dirt that may contain germs and kills the germs themselves. But there is not always a supply of soap and water available. In these cases, hand sanitizer gel or antibacterial spray is the savvy vacationer's secret weapon. When used properly, these products kill more than 99 percent of bacteria.
Carrying a small bottle of antibacterial gel with you at all times is an easy and convenient way to ward off any germs that may have landed on your hands. Don't wait until you arrive at your destination to get started. Planes, airports, buses and trains are notoriously dirty environments. It pays to grease or spray before, during and after boarding your flight or ride. Always wash your hands before eating. Also, don't be afraid to use hand sanitizer gel regularly throughout the day. It sounds a bit panicky, but realize that in 9 out of 10 cases your dirty hands have been the culprit when you get sick. Just rubbing your dirty hands along your mouth or eyes is done in no time. Don't give bacteria a chance!
5. Watch what you eat
Food, and in particular the various bacteria found in it, is one of the main causes of people getting sick while they are travelling. The most important rule to follow when eating on vacation is to be careful. Of course you want to taste the delicious local delicacies and street food – it is one of the highlights of travel. But stay careful.
Pay attention to where you eat and the hygiene standards of the restaurant, whether it's a hotel restaurant or a local street food stall. Food poisoning is really the last thing you want to experience during your world trip! To avoid food that will make you sick, always make sure it is freshly prepared and piping hot. Avoid raw foods and do not eat anything prepared with tap water that has not been boiled. Yes, I am looking at you vegetarians. Salads are risky in countries such as India, Cambodia, Philippines and Indonesia because the salad ingredients are often washed with local water. Be extra careful with this and preferably go to restaurants or eateries where many locals come and where the reviews are good.
6. Beat the Mosquitoes
Despite their small size and being super annoying, mosquitoes are some of the most dangerous creatures on Earth. At best, they will give you a nasty bite that will lead to a lot of itching and discomfort, or even a fever, which in itself can ruin your vacation. In the worst case scenario, depending on where you go, you could end up with a long list of nasty diseases that threaten you health can be.
The only way to completely stop any risk is to not get bitten, so if you're going to an area where there are a lot of mosquitoes, take plenty of precautions. Cover your body well with clothing, especially around sunrise and sunset, and apply DEET or other mosquito repellents. Make sure you sleep under a mosquito net and if there is no mosquito net available: go mosquito hunting before going to sleep. Every mosquito is one too many. Got stung along the way but not sure what it was? Then read the article below.
Also read: The world of insects: Know what bit you!
7. Respect the sun
Everyone loves a nice tan, but prevention is better than cure! Many travelers going abroad seize the opportunity to spend some time catching a few rays of sunshine. But too much fun in the sun can have serious negative effects on your health. The most common of these is sunburn, but more serious illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke should not be taken lightly. In extreme cases, they can even lead to death.
If you overdo it in the sun, you can spend days sick in bed recovering. Be sensible, know your limits and take it easy with the sun, especially if you have just been traveling for a few days or weeks. Use an appropriate strength sunscreen, don't spend too much time directly in the sun, avoid strenuous activities in the afternoon, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. They are standard travel tips that you always hear, but which still go wrong far too often. Listen to old aunt world traveler, hydrate yourself well, apply often and enjoy the sun, but in moderation.