Nothing ruins a holiday like a nasty travel bug. We look forward to our holidays all year, so while we are away, we want to make sure we stay well and enjoy the experience. This means taking care with food and drink, and maintaining a good level of general hygiene in unfamiliar territories.
Don’t spoil your break with a travel bug
Holidays are precious. We spend a great deal of money on them and we spend the whole year looking forward to them. Which is why it’s important to ensure we’re on top form when we depart, when we’re there and when we return. And, in unfamiliar territories where the water and food hygiene standards are uncertain, it can be hard to avoid a travel bug. But with some simple pre-planning and care, we can ensure that our time away remains a well deserved break.
Quick tips to avoid a travel bug
1. Before you travel:
- If you are pregnant, have a serious health condition, or are travelling to a location with harsh conditions, consult your doctor before you go. You should refill any prescriptions that you will need while away.
- See your doctor for advice about travel health requirements, ideally at least eight weeks before going abroad
- Check public health and travel advice, there are many government website which offer useful information
- Take water purification tablets with you, in order that you can prepare safe water locally if bottled water isn’t available
- If travelling to an environment with more extreme weather conditions, remember to take appropriate clothing and sunscreen where appropriate
2. Stay healthy while away:
- Wash your hands (and dry them on a paper towel) or use a hand sanitiser after using the toilet and before eating food
- Stay hydrated, once you are sure the water you are drinking is safe (see below)
- Avoid contact with local wildlife and stray animals such as dogs and cats.
3. Take care with what you eat and drink:
- Avoid drinking tap water, including ice cubes. If you’re unsure about its quality, instead purchase bottled water, or boil or purify water before using.
- Make sure food is served hygienically
- Ensure that fresh fruit can be peeled before eating
- Ensure food is well cooked and served steaming hot. Avoid raw or slightly cooked food, seafood, mayonnaise, ice cream, butter, etc.
- Eat breads, tortillas, crackers, biscuits, and other baked goods
- Eat fruits, nut, and vegetables with thick skins, peels, or shells that you remove yourself.
- Wash any food in bottled, boiled or purified water.
- Brush your teeth with bottled or boiled water, or water you have purified yourself
- Use bottled water when taking medicines
Why is good hygiene important?
From the surfaces we touch, to the food that we eat and the water that we drink. Chances are that we will be exposed to a different set of germs than those we are used to. This can mean that if we don’t take extra precautions we can easily pick up a travel bug like an upset stomach that can really spoil our holiday. Being ‘hygiene aware’, and protecting yourself with good hygiene practices can help ensure your trip is a pleasant experience and not one that you end up regretting!
What You Should Know
Most of the advice given here is common sense, and really just an extension of what you should be doing to maintain your wellbeing while at home. Probably the easiest and most effective way to protect yourself against germs whilst out and about remains frequent hand washing with soap and water. Be vigilant about what you’re eating and drinking.
How good hygiene can help
Check with your doctor for advice about whether travel vaccinations are necessary for your destination.
Wash your hands
Before the following activities:
- Handling food or eating
- Preparing a baby’s feed or handling sterilised equipment
- Applying contact lenses
- Dressing a wound or giving medicine
After the following activities:
- Contact with contaminated items, such as rubbish bins and cleaning cloths
- Using the toilet or changing a nappy
- Handling raw foods, such as poultry
- Touching animals or their toys or equipment
- Contact with blood or body fluids (like vomit, nasal secretions, saliva)
- Touching a contaminated area (e.g. cleaning cloth, drain, soil)
- Dressing a wound, giving medicine, or applying a medical device (e.g. catheter)
It’s also a good idea to take some hand sanitiser or hand wipes with you so you can clean your hands if there is no soap and water available.
Food and drink
Before leaving home, you should check public health and travel advice. Do some research about the destination and find out whether you should avoid the water, or certain food and drink to avoid a travel bug. You should also find out whether there are particular areas to avoid eating and drinking in and take water purification tablets with you in case bottled water isn’t available. Depending on the city or country you are travelling to, the tap water may not be safe to drink, so if you’re unsure of the quality of water, don’t take ice with your drinks and avoid food that may have been washed in the local water. When buying water, make sure the seal is not broken and if you’re in a restaurant, ask them to open the bottle at your table so you can see that the seal is not broken. Some places reuse opened bottles and fill with them water from local sources. It may also be wise to take a bottle of water with you at all times in order to stay hydrated during the day, and use the bottled water to brush your teeth, wash your face and take any medication as well.
Make sure food is piping hot, and avoid raw or slightly cooked food, seafood, mayonnaise, ice cream and butter. Eat fruits, nut, and vegetables with thick skins, peels, or shells that you remove yourself. If this is not possible, wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly in bottled, boiled or purified water before you eat them. Eat breads, tortillas, crackers, biscuits, and other baked goods.
Take appropriate clothing and sunscreen
If you’re going to be travelling to a hot destination, then protecting your head and body from the sun is a necessity. Sunscreen can help protect your skin from harmful UV rays and may even stop you from getting sunburn while you’re travelling. Wearing a hat is one of the best ways to protect your head from the sun, and can also help prevent the risk of you getting a sunstroke during your travels.
Take Your Medication
Protect Yourself from Insects
Some insects may carry diseases, such as malaria or Lyme disease. Because of this if you are going to a country where this is a problem, you should carry insect repellent with you at all times and apply it to your skin on a regular basis. Wear long trousers or leggings and long- sleeved shirts, especially if you plan on hiking around other countries where malaria is common.
Protect Cuts and Wounds
Before treating a cut or wound, always wash your hands using an antimicrobial soap and clean water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. Carefully clean the wound with safe, clean running water, an antiseptic wash, or correctly diluted antiseptic liquid, before gently drying the skin around the wound using a clean tissue or gauze. Apply an antiseptic cream or ointment to the wound to help kill any remaining germs, and protect the wound from dirt and germs by covering it with an adhesive plaster or sterile dressing. Remember to wash your hands again afterwards.