11 helpful, effective tips to prevent travel illness and recover quickly

While older travelers and those who are immunocompromised must take special precautions while traveling. Prevent travel illness. COVID, norovirus, or other viruses can blow up a journey.

Pill medication, image by Rodrigo SennaPrevent travel illness. While many consider COVID-19 over, older travelers and those who are immunocompromised, or with chronic illnesses, etc., can’t. They’ve always had to be cautious and circumspect while traveling and even while COVID infections have substantially dropped, it remains a serious threat to them, along with other diseases.

In fact, at the end of March, COVID was still causing about 2,400 hospitalizations and 300 deaths per week in the US. While cases, hospitalizations and deaths are significantly lower compared to the height of the pandemic, 300 deaths per week is far too many.

Norovirus is much more than an inconvenient cruise ship disease. It kills about 900 Americans annually. Influenza kills from 2,000-50,000 Americans each year.

Many believe that norovirus is nothing more than an inconvenient cruise ship disease that you get for a few days then you’re fine. They’re wrong. In the U.S. norovirus causes more than 460,000 emergency room visits, 109,000 hospitalizations and about 900 deaths every year.

In addition, influenza infects from 9 to 41 million Americans every year. It resulted in 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations and from 2,000 to 52,000 deaths per year from 2010 to 2020.

If your condition means you have increased vulnerability to communicable diseases, you must be careful when traveling. Then again, I think that everyone should take reasonable, helpful, effective precautions when traveling to remain as healthy as possible during their journeys. Many long days and nights stuck in a cruise ship stateroom or in a hotel room while suffering the effects of COVID or norovirus, in particular, will blow up a vacation, family visit or business trip.

I have 11 effective tips for you to use to prevent getting sick while traveling and help you recover if you become ill despite using preventative means.

Before you travel, consult with your doctor, check for disease outbreaks at your destinations, and get vaccinated before you leave.

Check with your doctor while planning your journey:
If you’re under treatment for a disease, speak with your physician(s) when planning to travel. Follow their directions to treat your current medical problems and prevent getting another illness while traveling. Your doctor may want to prescribe specific medication to carry with you in case you become ill while traveling, even if traveling domestically.

If you’re traveling internationally, contact a travel medicine physician. Their knowledge can be invaluable about vaccinations, medications, etc.

Check for outbreaks:
While planning your journey and until you leave, check for outbreaks at your destination(s). While some outbreaks can be handled by vaccination, others may require a trip postponement. If you have to go into an outbreak area, knowing it’s there will help you properly prepare for it in case you get sick.

Get vaccinated:
It’s not enough for travelers or anyone, for that matter, to merely get the full gamut of COVID vaccinations. Don’t forget other important vaccinations recommended for adults and children, as per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations. In addition, check what vaccinations are necessary for your destination, if traveling internationally.

Pack enough of your prescription and over-the-counter medications to last for your entire journey, plus enough to cover you if your return home is delayed.

Pack enough medications:
Every traveler should pack enough of their prescription medications and over-the-counter medications to last for the duration of their trip, plus an additional ten days. In the past, most recommended just a few extra days of medication. Unfortunately, with diseases like COVID, that can force travelers to delay their return home, I recommend an extra 10-day supply.

Some travelers may be inclined to take even more, but if traveling internationally, beware that many nations have strict limits on how much medicine you can bring into their country. In addition, some medications that are legal in one’s home country aren’t legal in other countries. Bring prescription medication in its original container with the prescription label. Check with your destination’s embassy and the embassies of any layover nations to ensure your prescriptions and over-the-counter medications are legal there.

Masking strategically can be an effective deterrent to prevent you from becoming infected with airborne illnesses.

Pack masks for your journey:
There is ample peer reviewed evidence that masking with N-95 and KN-95 masks is an effective strategy in the prevention of COVID-19. There is also evidence that these masks can and do protect against contracting other air borne diseases such as influenza. Particularly for those who are older and/or have chronic illnesses, strategic masking is an effective method of staying healthy while traveling.

Personally, I continue to wear a mask upon arrival at the airport, throughout my time in the airport, during my flights to the extent possible, in elevators and theaters as well as crowded indoor spaces and definitely in poorly ventilated indoor places. Wearing a mask hasn’t stopped me from traveling or enjoying traveling. I still eat in restaurants, but outside as much as I can. I’ve made a strategic choice of when to wear a mask to give me protection in close quarter situations which are riskier than others.

Pack disinfectant wipes:
Bring disinfecting wipes and clean high touch surfaces that you contact during your travels, such as the headrest and tray table on your flights, the light switches and remote in your hotel, etc. In addition, don’t use the seat pocket on your flights. They’re impossible to sanitize and normally about the dirtiest and germiest place on aircraft.

If you get sick while traveling, particularly when traveling internationally, wherever you go, make sure your insurance will cover you. Consider travel medical insurance.

Health Insurance:
If you get sick while away from home, you’re going to need health insurance. You’ll be outside of your home coverage area, using doctors and facilities with which you have no familiarity. The costs could be significant. Make sure that you’re covered whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally and know what coverage you have. It may be wise to purchase travel medical insurance.

Wash your hands frequently:
Most of the time, people blame digestive disease while traveling on the food or drink they’ve consumed, but more often than not, bad hand hygiene is the actual cause. No matter where you are, always wash your hands thoroughly per CDC guidelines before eating and after using a lavatory.

When you can’t wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Sanitizers help, but they’re not as good as good hand washing.

Water safety:
You need to know about your destination’s water safety. In the Traveler’s Health section on the CDC website you can check on the water safety at your destination(s), if you’re traveling internationally.

Staying hydrated and prioritizing sleep are essential for everyone to stay healthy and recover more quickly.

Stay hydrated:
Drinking enough water every day is crucial. Being well hydrated helps your body regulate its temperature, prevents infections, keeps your organs properly functioning and helps flush toxins from your body.

Prioritize sleep:
Every doctor I’ve spoken with about travel, including mine, always recommends to get plenty of sleep while traveling. They tell me that sleep helps the body’s immune system operate strongly, preventing you from becoming ill.

Be ready for Murphy’s law, “What can go wrong, will go wrong,” during your trip. Ensure you pack the right medical supplies in the quantities you need. Be able to contact your family and physicians at home, if you become ill. Make sure you have health insurance. Take reasonable, commonsense precautions to stay healthy. The better you’re prepared, the more likely you’ll enjoy your journey.

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