vacationWith the recent news reports of hundreds of travelers getting sick on cruise ships, many people are wondering whether they can go on vacation without coming home with an unwanted souvenir. After all, what’s worse than expecting a few days of R & R, only to end up horribly ill while you are on vacation or right after you get home?


Getting sick on vacation isn’t an unusual phenomenon — nor is it limited to cruise ships. Traveling in confined spaces with other people who might already be ill, not getting enough rest and eating different food than you are used to can all contribute to a less-than-pleasant getaway. The good news is you can avoid most of the causes of vacation illness and stay healthy while you’re away.

Advance Preparation:

Sometimes, when we leave for a trip, we’re already on the path to getting sick and don’t even realize it. In fact the very reasons you need a vacation — stress, lack of sleep, etc. — could be putting you at risk for a virus.

Before you head out, pay close attention to your health. Get as much rest as you can, eat a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and consider taking a supplement to help boost your immune system. Drink plenty of water as well, as dehydration makes you more vulnerable to illness.

If you’re traveling out of the country, see your doctor beforehand for a checkup and to get any required vaccines. The CDC maintains a comprehensive list of vaccine recommendations for various countries, and if you are traveling on a guided tour, such as a cruise, you’ll most likely receive a list of the vaccines you need to get. Make sure you are up-to-date on your standard vaccines as well. While rare, there have been reported outbreaks of diseases like rubella or chicken pox on cruise ships.

Even if you do not need any vaccinations before you travel, if you take any prescription medications, see your doctor before you leave to make sure you have everything you need for your trip. You may not be able to find equivalent drugs overseas, or you might find your doctor’s prescriptions are not valid in another state. You want to make sure you have enough medication on hand for your entire trip plus a few days to avoid emergencies should your trip go awry.

In some cases, depending on where you are traveling, your doctor may prescribe some “emergency” medications, such as seasickness treatments, so you do not have to suffer on your vacation.Buy prescriptions ahead of time with a medication discount card to save you money; buying medications away from home can be more expensive and more difficult. No matter what, if you are traveling with prescription drugs, carry them in their original containers and bring a copy of the prescription to avoid any issues with security at the airport or in customs.

On the Go:

To stay healthy on vacation, you need to maintain at least some of your normal routine. Don’t take a vacation from your exercise routine; experts recommend getting at least 20 to 30 minutes of exercise each day even when you’re on vacation. Pack healthy snacks to nibble on between meals. Vacation can be a time to indulge, but reaching for nothing but sweets and unhealthy foods will only make you feel sick and uncomfortable. This is especially true if you are living with a chronic condition like diabetes or heart disease and need to follow a specific diet. Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and limit the treats as much as possible.

Exercising and eating right can go a long way to helping you feel great, but it’s not going to do much to help you avoid coming into contact with viruses. To avoid these nasty germs, follow basic hygiene rules: Wash your hands with soap and water often, and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you can’t. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and if you must cough or sneeze, cover your mouth to prevent spreading germs to others.

Since many vacation illnesses are food-related, take precautions with what you eat, especially in foreign or developing countries that may not have the same food safety standards as the U.S. While you may not always be able to determine how something has been stored or prepared, avoid improperly handled food when you can. In general, you are better off eating in restaurants that prepare individual meals than frequenting buffets, which are often the source of viruses or illness-causing bacteria.

A vacation is a chance to relax, unwind and experience the wonders of a new destination. It should not be the chance to experience the inside of an infirmary or foreign hospital. Take care of yourself and follow some basic precautions and you will have pleasant vacation memories unspoiled by illness.

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