Running into health-related issues while traveling is the last thing you want. In my case, I speak from experience of being hospitalized with need for surgery at a remote place in Nigeria and suffering from acute dehydration due to food poisoning in Cambodia. Both times, it was a nightmare. Something I hope to never experience ever again during my travels.
I have been traveling for a while now and have completed nearly 150 international trips. Some years, the frequency has been every month with the highest travel in a year being 15 times. This kind of schedule has prompted me to pay special attention keeping myself healthy & fit. I am going to share my perspective based on my personal experiences.
There are two aspects to staying healthy; preventive measures and corrective care.
Preventive measures focus mainly on being aware of your body and taking necessary precautions to avoid any health adversities.
- Know your body, e.g. allergy (food, medicine, etc.), existing conditions (sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.).
- Do regular health check-ups and lab investigations as needed. ALWAYS carry a copy of all the reports with you, a MUST for frequent travelers.
- Ensure you are well equipped with appropriate and smart travel gear (e.g. comfortable shoes/accessories, weather-specific items, basic first aid, etc.)
- Get a prescription of basic meds, including antibiotics from your physician and always carry stock to use, SOS.
- Sort out the simplest health niggle, if you have any, before you travel.
- Make sure you pack a goody bag with dry fruits, chocolates and energy bars. These snacks will satiate you on the go with almost no side-effects. One cannot be too cautious with food while traveling as it is known to be the commonest cause of ill health.
While in the foreign land:
- Keep yourself hydrated, but ENSURE you drink the most hygienic water available, even if you have to pay. Water is the prime cause of most illnesses.
- Follow a simple yet effective fitness routine if you are a fitness freak. DO NOT go overboard. For those who are flexible, choose walking as much as possible. This is my mantra while traveling.
- Plan your day well to avoid rushing around. Reach ahead of time to catch your flight/train/bus. Most injuries happen when you are running short of time.
- Always travel light. Remember, you have to handle your own luggage while traveling abroad, especially to developed countries. You definitely don’t want an injury like a muscle tear or a sprain while handling your luggage.
- Breakfast is a MUST before you start your day. In a foreign country, you might come across a situation where you never know when and where your next meal will be available.
- DO NOT be too adventurous with food. Do your homework on what is available and what you should and should not eat in the country you are traveling to. e.g. I try to avoid eating fish in Nigeria and raw vegetables in Cambodia.
- ALWAYS eat food that is fully cooked. Stay away as much as possible from raw meat and vegetables. Starving temporarily is safer than eating unhealthy and unhygienic food.
- Having branded packaged drinks (coke, pepsi, juices, etc.) and veg. pizzas from Domino’s and Pizza Hut is not a bad idea, if you run out of options. You can be sure that these options are safe and will take care of your hunger pangs.. Don’t be a diet freak when you travel. Convenience and safety is what matters the most.
- Treat any health niggles with your stock of SOS medication when you see initial symptoms itself. Cross check with your physician and/or doctor friends and relatives via phone. It is always better to take preventive medicines while on a short overseas trip. I always take paracetamol the moment I feel slightly feverish, even if I know it is just a temporary feeling. However, I won’t do it in my home country.
- Adventure is good while traveling but over adventurous can be dangerous. Do apply caution and ensure you are 100% sure that all safety measure are in place before you indulge in anything.
Also suggest checking – DOs and DONTs when Traveling to 3rd World Countries
Corrective measures are actions that one takes to rectify any health issues that might arise.
- In case of sudden health issues, first consult your doctor in your home country. Since they are aware of your health condition, their advice is best at this time.
- Adhere strictly their advice and prescribed medicines. DO NOT try to be the doctor and self-medicate.
- Consult a local doctor/hospital if it is absolutely necessary. Speak to locals on whom and where to go. Hotel staff and nearby pharmacy owners would be of help.
- Take note of everything that is prescribed to you and clarify all your doubts. If the local doctor obliges, nothing like your personal physician speaking to the local doctor.
- After seeking advise and help, if you are still not comfortable with your health, do not hesitate to cut short your trip and return home. Money should not be the criteria in such a situation.
Last but not least…
ALWAYS TRAVEL WITH A GENUINE INTERNATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE WITH REPATRIATION BENEFITS.