Maintaining a healthy lifestyle in the comfort of our own home is a challenge that many of us have been able to rise to, but what about staying healthy on the road?
When we are away from our regular routines, exposed to different climates, different foods, and different people, we put ourselves at a higher risk for contracting an illness or worse; a lifelong disease. Many doctors will tell their patients to go over any potential health risks before heading out on the road, whether you are flying, driving or taking some other mode of transportation.
What to consider
Here are some key questions to consider before you pack up and head towards your destination.
- Where are you traveling and at what time of year?
(Certain infections are seasonal such as malaria or Japanese encephalitis)
- Do you have any underlying medical problems?
(You may want to discuss travel with your physician first)
- Do you require any medications
(Arrange for any refills so you don’t run out while you are away)
- Why style of travel are you doing?
(If it is business and you will be sitting in an office and hotel most of the time, inoculation may not be required, but if you are backpacking or doing aid work you will need protection)
- Do you have a first aid kit?
(Make sure it is stocked properly. You never know when you might need something as simple as a band-aid or disinfectant to prevent infection)
- Is malaria an issue at your destination and will you need malaria treatment?
(Research your destination)
- Is your tetanus/diphtheria and polio up to date?
(They have been practically eradicated in North America, but continue to pose a problem in other countries)
Generally speaking the risks for travelers fall into 3 main categories:
- Vaccine-preventable diseases
- Insect-borne diseases
- Gastrointestinal illnesses-caused by contaminated food and water
People who are over the age of 65 have to consider the threat of influenza and pneumonia when they are thinking of traveling as well. In addition, yellow fever is a serious concern in Africa and South American. Several countries in Africa require vaccination or entry is forbidden.
Toronto based Doctor Jay Keystone is a leading expert on the subject of health and traveling. He preaches “better safe than sorry” in his lectures. He tells people that “if 100,000 people went to the developing world for a month, 50,000 would develop health problems.” Some of those problems would include “diarrhea, influenza, and pneumonia, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and HIV.”
Keystone and other medical experts warn that while Hepatitis A may not be a real threat in your neighborhood, it could be in other countries, especially those that are underdeveloped. Hepatitis A is contracted through drinking water or eating food in areas where sanitation is poor. Keystone also points out in his lectures that despite warnings there is still a high percentage of travelers that engage in unprotected sex, putting themselves at risk for HIV.
Research shows that more travelers are getting sick; however, more people than ever before are traveling…over 900 million a year according to recent airline statistics. What is also interesting to note is that people are going to destinations that they have never been to before; facing conditions and food that they are unfamiliar with.
We are all accustomed to certain foods, but when we are on the road that all changes. The best approach is to look at a menu then ask the waiter or waitress if you can customize the dish. For example, it is simple enough for a lot of chefs to make changes to a pasta dish to eliminate fats and sugar or to leave out the meat for those who are vegetarians. Sticking with a healthy diet can help keep the body in good balance. Travel experts have the following tip for people who like to buy and prepare their own food when they are away from home…“boil it, purify it, peel it, and cook it.”
Now-a-days most hotels have gyms, and for those who don’t there is normally a club nearby. There is no reason for people to stop working out when they are away from home. Routines can be modified. Getting some exercise will help energy levels and overall wellness while traveling.
If you are going on a road trip there are a few more issues you might want to look at such as: avoiding back and muscle pain, snacking, and avoiding stress.
No matter where you are going or what the reason for your trip, a change of scenery is always refreshing; it can be fun. To maintain that happy momentum, and to keep you healthy, a little preparation ahead of time will help.