Think about how miserable and vulnerable you feel when you're really ill at home. Now multiply that misery by ten when you're alone in a country where medical standards are questionable, you don't speak the language, and you're not sure what you've got!
Although having travel insurance gives you the security of knowing that you can see a doctor straight away and have your costs covered, prevention is always better than cure.
So we asked our travel experts for their top tips on how to stay healthy while you're on the road:
In most developing countries, the tap water is NOT safe to drink. Drink sterilised or bottled water (making sure the seal on the bottle is intact) and carry enough with you during the day to prevent dehydration. Even use it to brush your teeth. When in restaurants, ask for drinks without ice.
In developing countries, be wary of trying dishes that include uncooked produce (salads, fresh fruit, and vegetables). Fruits that can be peeled (bananas, mangoes etc.) are generally safe to eat. Beware of frozen foods that may have been thawed and re-frozen, and of undercooked meat, fish or poultry.
When eating at food stalls, use your best judgment: if the food preparation area looks dodgy, don't even consider eating it. If you're unfortunate enough to get diarrhoea, the basic rule is to stop eating and drink plenty of (bottled) water for a few days until it has passed.
Mosquito bites are the cause of most tropical diseases, so dress to avoid getting bitten – wear long pants and long sleeves, especially at dusk. Use mosquito repellent on any exposed skin, and sleep under a mosquito net if one is provided (or travel with your own if you are camping or staying in remote areas).
'I couldn't sleep at all and at four in the morning I had 'an emergency' and asked the bus driver to pull over on the side of the road. Today, I found out I had Malaria.'
Heartrl posts about 'Malaria and Me'
Beware of strong (or even not so strong) sun, especially if you are not used to it – you can burn or get heat stroke before you know it. Carry a hat and sunscreen in your daypack and remember to reapply the lotion after you have been swimming. Also, drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration in hot climates.
'I put on SPF 60+ just in case. But, I actually think that my arms were burning thru my shirt. I hat a hat on, and some how my forehead got color.'
netsy19 gets Burnt in Bolvia
Just like your Mum said... Wash your hands before eating, keep your body clean and eat as healthy a diet as you can.
Of course, if romance happens along the way, practice safe sex. HIV/AIDs are widespread in many countries. That means using a condom – and it's best to bring one from home, so you know it's safe.
Now that you've gone to the trouble of getting yourself a whiz-bang first-aid kit, remember to actually take it with you. There's no point coming off that mountain bike at the top of the hill and realising the bandages are all the way at the bottom.
If you have to seek medical attention, make sure any needles or syringes are sterile and check any medications prescribed – examine any seals, read the contra-indications and beware of any likely side effects, particularly if you have any allergies.
And finally, whilst we offer tips for your travel health and safety, please be aware that you need to make decisions based on your own circumstances and the local laws of the countries you will visit.
It is best to check with your Foreign Affairs/State Dept and the World Health Organisation for the most up to date information in this area.
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