9 tips for preventing illness on vacation
ONE of our writers recently went on vacation to Redang Island, Malaysia and came back with an unwanted souvenir in her foot – a parasitic worm.
Unbeknownst to her, the sand along the east coast of the island was contaminated with animal feces.
This isn’t uncommon on beaches that have abundant wildlife living nearby, and it’s doesn’t often affect humans.
But this time was different.
First, her feet became unbearably itchy, then blisters erupted on her toes before long, thin, red tracks appeared on the inside of her right foot.
She visited the doctor’s as soon as the vacation was over, but three misdiagnoses and a cocktail of drugs her body didn’t need only led to prolonged suffering.
Finally, she was diagnosed with cutaneous larva migrans and treated appropriately, but the memory of her vacation was tainted with illness, not to mention the hole it left in her bank account.
Getting sick on vacation leaves you with the conundrum of going home early or powering on through with the possibility of it getting worse.
While Travel Wire Asia is unable to give medical advice, we can share a few of our tips to minimize the risk of getting sick on your travels.
Start with getting shots
Vaccinations are the first line of defense in preventing nasty illnesses.
When planning a vacation, look at government websites to see what shots are recommended.
It’s always good to have top-ups of common diseases such as hepatitis A, typhoid, tetanus, and diphtheria.
Pack a first aid kit
From plasters to antiseptic wipes, your travel first aid kit will be your best friend.
You can buy approved medical kits at all equipped pharmacies and online, or make your own depending on the type of vacation you’re having.
For example, a hiking trip would need many more plasters and rehydration tables than a beach vacation might.
Here are the basics:
- Surgical scissors
- Antiseptic cream
- Alcohol-free cleansing wipes
- Eyewash solution
- Bite relief cream
Turn off the air con
You can overdose on air conditioning, leading to chest infections, flu, and other airborne viruses.
A poorly maintained air conditioning system can harbor germs and fungi which are released when switched on.
To prevent this, especially when you’re flying, turn the air conditioning off and use a handheld fan instead.
Don’t be a mosquito’s dinner
Not only are mosquito bites itchy and annoying, they may also carry deadly diseases such as dengue, malaria and yellow fever.
While these are treatable, they’re nasty and can have long-lasting, damaging effects.
The best way to avoid getting bitten is by avoiding mosquito hotspots, using insect repellent every hour of the day, not lingering around stagnant water and using a net to keep out all bugs.
Also, eating certain foods such as garlic puts off mosquitoes from attacking.
Wash your hands
Even as adults we become complacent with simple tasks such as washing our hands, but infection control starts with this process.
At any given time we carry around 3,200 bacteria from 150 different species on our hands.
Most won’t harm humans but as soon as dangerous bacteria such as the diarrhea-inducing Giardia lamblia enters our bodies, well you can probably guess the rest.
Feeling the sand between your toes is all well and good until a pesky parasite makes your foot its new home.
Shoes create a barrier between your delicate skin and all the nasties in the sand.
If you can’t bear the feeling of sand in your shoes and insist on going barefoot, be sure to wash your feet thoroughly afterward.
Don’t eat contaminated food
We know nobody eats contaminated food on purpose, but sometimes it can be difficult to tell.
Here are a few signs that food has gone bad:
- Rice: Super hard and dry, unpleasant smell, unusually slimy.
- Eggs: For uncooked eggs, place in water, if it sinks and stands up on one end, it’s not fresh. If it sinks and lays on its side, it’s fresh.
- Chicken: Grey color, doesn’t turn white when cooked.
- Fish: Strong fishy or ammonia smell, dry.
Lather on sunscreen
Sunburn is a killer. No, literally it can kill.
Sunburn is the instant reaction to the skin being exposed to ultraviolet rays for too long. This can cause blistering and deep, multi-layer skin burns.
However, once these symptoms subside, the damage still exists in your skin and your chances of skin cancer increase.
Factor 50 is always best and needs to be applied at least every half an hour.
Hot climates cause your body to sweat more leading to water loss and dehydration.
Staying hydrated means keeping your body cool and lubricating your brain and joints to prevent aches all over.
Source: Travels travelwireasia.com