The chilly temperatures this winter may leave you longing for a beach getaway, but before you escape to a tropical paradise, make sure you are informed and well-prepared for the health risks a new locale may bring. Traveling to the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean and South America means adjusting to a different culture and environment, a feat that may not be easy for everyone.
Find some travel tips below to help you stay healthy and happy while getting some much-needed sunshine so you can truly make the most of your vacation.
Protect your skin: Countries closer to the equator are already in the midst of their summer, and the sun’s rays can cause damage in as little as ten minutes. While you may plan on getting a nice tan to show off once you return home, keep in mind that the sun is not something to take lightly. Ensure you have plenty of sunscreen and find shade around noon, which is when the sun is at its strongest.
You’ll mostly likely be sweating and swimming, so a waterproof or sports brand of sunscreen may prove most effective. Make sure to reapply sunscreen each time you get out of the water, and bring a hat and t-shirt to cover exposed skin when needed. Nothing can ruin a vacation faster than getting a bad sunburn on the first day, and the skin damage can last a lifetime and lead to complications like melanoma.
Protect your gut: Some vacation destinations have different drinking water than we are used to here in North America, and while the digestive systems of the locals have no trouble consuming it, yours might. Stick to bottled water to keep your stomach happy, and avoid beverages with crushed ice or ice cubes, as these may be made from tap water. Be mindful when brushing your teeth as well, and try not to swallow water from the tap, as consuming tap water may cause traveler’s diarrhea.
Similarly, new cuisine and preparation methods could cause turmoil for those with more sensitive stomachs, so it may be best to avoid that exotic dish you cannot pronounce. If you are concerned about traveler’s diarrhea and would like to take preventative action, speak to your physician before your trip, as they may be able to suggest preventative medications that can help you spend your vacation on the beach and not in the bathroom.
Protect your health: A new environment also brings new health risks and disease, and in warmer temperatures, it is easier for these illnesses to spread. Mosquitos can carry disease like malaria, dengue fever, and Zika, so it may be wise to pack a mosquito net to hang over your bed and protect you while you sleep. Bug spray is also a good idea, especially if you plan on being out and about in the evening when these pests are often most prevalent. Bring a mosquito repellant that is between 30 and 35 percent DEET to help ward off any itchy and potentially dangerous bites.
Also, be aware that your risk of flu may increase in tropical countries, as the virus circulates year-round in these warmer climates. If you are planning your trip during the winter months when it is flu season in the United States, you may also be at risk while on the plane as another infected traveler could pass the illness on to you. Getting the flu shot may be a good idea before traveling if you haven’t been vaccinated already.
A vacation in the sun may be just what the doctor ordered in terms of relaxation and stress relief, but it can also come with a variety of health concerns. Be aware of the sun’s strength and take care to protect your skin in order to prevent lasting skin damage. Also, be mindful of what you eat and drink, as you could end up with a case of traveler’s diarrhea. Talk to your doctor about your options for preventing this unfortunate condition so you can spend less time worrying about whether the ice in your drink will cause problems for your stomach.
Finally, be aware that different climates come with different diseases, some of which are spread by mosquitos. Bring repellants and mosquito netting to reduce your risk of contracting a serious condition such as malaria or Zika while you are away. Planning ahead may seem tedious, but it is an important step to ensuring you enjoy your vacation to the fullest and keep your body healthy.