Picture this, you had been preparing & planning an amazing holiday for quite some time and then BAM! out of the thin air you catch a flu.
There might be a good chance your holiday season include some travels where we’re exposed to a whole new range of bugs, parasites and environments and you’re probably take presents along, hopefully it won’t include a case of the flu or common cold that you pick up in transit. The flu is no fun at all : aches, headaches, nausea and sometimes fever take over your life for up to two weeks. Even worse, it is possible to spread the flu before you have many symptoms. The common cold is not pleasant either. You’re more likely to pick up those germs during holiday travels from germy surfaces on airports and train stations.
People who are exposed to cold and flu germs everyday like doctors, flight attendants and teachers, might know one or two things to stay healthy when everyone around them is sick. Their suggestions may help you too. Here are 5 things to do to avoid flu during vacation :
- Wash your hands
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, washing your hands with soap and water can prevent the spread of germs to yourself and others. Hand hygiene is essential to stop the spread of infections and can reduce your chances of diarrhea, vomiting, food poisoning, gastroenteritis, flu, norovirus, MRSA or even hepatitis A.
Food poisoning (food contamination) is the biggest causes of the travelers’ diarrhea and gastrointestinal problem on any travel adventure.
You should be always ensuring as much as possible that the food you eat is fresh, cooked thoroughly and served piping hot. Street food in many places around the world are awesome. Trying and eating local and delving to local cuisine is one of the absolute true pleasures of traveling and one you should not miss on, but said that, a degree of common sense is needed too.
You have to be careful and look out for signs of good hygiene practice at any street food stall or food court you eat at. Does the person handling the food wear disposable gloves and change them frequently? Is there other person handling the money or at least the person handling your food removes and replace gloves every time they handle cash? Is hand washing a regular occurrence? Is raw food left out in open or is it stored correctly? These things seem unessential but they are very important.
You may to avoid salads that may have been prepared in local untreated water, raw fruit or vegetable that you have not peeled or skinned yourself , food that has been left out and exposed for a period of time, food that is shared, such in a buffet under cooked, raw or reheated food especially meat, fish and rice.
You might not avoid stomach upset completely during your travel, especially if you are traveling long term, but if you are aware of good food hygiene practices and follow as much as possible then you can at the very least minimize to become ill.
The CDC recommends scrubbing your hands for 20 seconds. If you’re on the go and can’t get to the sink, then alcohol-based hand sanitizer will be a perfect help to cleanse your hands. Many travelers carry small bottles of hand gels but they aren’t for replacement for good old soap and water. Where ever possible, wash your hands under hot water for at least 30 seconds before and after eating and always after going to the toilet. Moreover is when ever your hands are visibly
soiled, you definitely should wash them.
- Get a flu shot, make an appointment with a travel health professional
A yearly flu shot is the best way to protect yourself from flu while the best time to get a flu shot is in the early fall before flu activity starts to rise. It takes about two weeks for a person to build up immunity against the flu after they get their shot.
You cannot get the flu from a flu shot. The flu vaccine injection contains no live virus, only viral proteins. Also, flu shots do not protect against cold, so hand washing and other protective measures are still important. It is also important to discuss your plans with a travel health professional well before head off to your round the world adventure.
Many travelers instead leave it till last minute while too many people contact one just a week before leaving not realizing that vaccination may need to be timed weeks apart. The average recommended time to see a health professional is 6-8 weeks before you leave, while little earlier than that will be better especially if you have certain conditions that need more than one vaccination.
- Avoid sick people and do not touch your face.
Contact with sick people is sometime unavoidable, but if you know someone with the flu or other contagious illness, you should try to limit your contact with them as much as possible. This is especially important for people with health conditions that may increase complications from the flu such as heart disease, liver disease, diabetes or being pregnant.
The Food & Drug Administration says that parents should keep infants away from crowds for the first few months of life to limit their exposure to infected people.
Anytime you touch any of your mucus membranes – your nose, eyes and mouth- these are ways to transmit infections. Even we touch our face without thinking about it, it can spread disease.
So, if you can avoid touching your face, this may be beneficial. Previous studies suggested that people contaminate their hands with germs more often than they wash their hands.
- Stay active and practice healthy habit
A healthy lifestyle including regular exercise, eating healthfully, getting enough sleep is good for your general well-being and may help keep you from falling under the weather.
The FDA also give notes that smokers are more prone to respiratory illnesses and complications from these illnesses than non-smokers.
To do exercise is the best way to stay fit and healthy and fight off unwanted infections. An even if you do get sick, your body is better able to fight off the infection and more quickly get you back to your feet. It isn’t foolproof, because fit people still get sick but in general the fitter you are the better your body will be at shrugging off that annoying bug or illness.
In terms of taking supplements such as vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc, there is not much evidence that such herbal remedies work to prevent colds or reduce the length of cold symptoms. There is not a lot of harm in using those products, but there’s also not a lot of a proven benefit.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites & protect yourself against the sun
Mosquito bites are an absolute nightmare for any traveler. At best they will simply annoy you with itchy and painful bites but at worst they can transmit a whole variety of diseases such as yellow fever which is far more dangerous than flu and common cold, dengue, Japanese encephalitis and chikungunya, not mention malaria.
Mosquitoes can be a problem in many parts of the world but the CDC, WHO and NHS Fit For Travel site can help you to find out where there are outbreaks of diseases such as dengue or malaria. Even if you are in a low to a no risk area, it is still a good idea to prevent mosquitoes from biting you in the first place by use a preventive measures :
* Air-conditioned rooms are great for minimizing mosquito bites, as they are often
* Cover up. Wearing the right clothing is essential. Wear light, lose cotton clothing that cover most of your skin especially around peak exposure times and places. For example, near bodies of water or at twilight or after dark, the peak time for malaria-carrying mosquitoes to feed.
* Sleep under permethrin-coated nets when necessary.
* Use anti-mosquito coils and plug-in devices where appropriate.
* Always apply a good dose of 30-50% mosquito repellent spray and reapply it regularly.
It is important though to remember that none of these methods are completely foolproof. You can do everything right and still get bitten. However, you can minimize your risk by the tips above.
And beside mosquito bites, sunburn can seriously ruin a good travel experience, so protecting yourself from one goes beyond getting bad sunburn. You should also stay well hydrated especially if you are traveling in a country or region with a hot climate as well as cover up with loose clothing and even a hat or scarf.
If you don’t, then dehydration can set in a very quickly, that can lead into more serious conditions such as exposure, heat exhaustion or heatstroke when if left unattended might turn into medical emergency.