Many people get sick when travelling or backpacking and there are a number of reasons why. You may not be getting as much sleep as usual so your immune system is low; you have been travelling on airplanes, which are a hot bed of bacteria and viruses and your body is being exposed to many foreign illnesses and bacteria that it is not used to. It is obviously very important to try and stay healthy on your gap year, so follow our top tips for healthy travels. Most of these are specifically applicable to developing countries, although it won’t hurt to follow some of this advice for other places too.
1) Make sure that food is hot – one of the most common illnesses among travellers is an upset stomach and it will inevitably happen to you at some part of your journey, but if you follow these rules you can avoid many chances. When eating street food, or even in restaurants always make sure that the food is thoroughly hot and cooked through and you can see it bubbling or sizzling, this will ensure that any bacteria has been killed.
2) Don’t drink tap water – this one maybe pretty obvious but you never know. Always buy bottled water and make sure that the seal is on properly. In some places they might try to sell you tap water in a bottle. This goes for ice too, as it is usually made from tap water. Always remember to ask for no ice in your drinks.
3) Avoid salad – salad is often washed in local tap water and is obviously not cooked, so bacteria are not killed.
4) Wash your hands – now I know I might be sounding a bit like your mother now, but this one is very important and not washing hands is usually one of the most common reasons backpackers get sick. Buy a bottle of hand sanitizer to take with you as soap and water is not always available.
5) Stay hydrated – you need to make sure you are drinking enough, especially in hot climates. Drinking lots of water also helps flush out toxins in the body and generally keeps you healthier.
6) Take a first aid kit – make sure you pack a first aid kit. Be sure to not only pack essentials like plasters and anti-bacterial cream, but also pack re-hydration salts, lotion for insect bites and stings and even butterfly stitches, for when you have a deep cut and there is no hospital nearby.
7) Take malaria tablets where needed – If you are travelling to areas where malaria is prevalent then it’s very important to take anti-malaria tablets. Even though these may be expensive, do not forego them or take the situation lightly. Thousands of people die from malaria every year.
8) Make sure you get enough sleep – this is especially true when travelling and going on planes, this will help keep your immunity levels high, so that you are not so susceptible to illnesses.
9) Get necessary vaccinations – always make sure you are up to date with your vaccinations and find out from your doctor which ones you need for certain countries.
10) Use mosquito repellents and nets – in many countries of the world mosquitoes can carry a variety of illnesses, not just malaria, but also dengue fever or yellow fever. While you can take precautions for yellow fever and malaria there are none for dengue fever. In areas of the world where this is a risk, make sure you wear repellent, especially in the evening or at night. Also it is a good idea to sleep under mosquito nets. Not all hostels or hotels provide them so it’s a good idea to pack a small travel one with you.