5 Sneaky Ways You Can Get Sick On Vacation & How To Steer Clear Of The Germs
When you're about to go on vacation, the literal last thing you want to happen is to catch a nasty cough the day before you leave. Even worse, there are tons of sneaky ways you can get sick on vacation, which can be hell on earth when you're in a foreign place and don't have access to the medicine or comforting tactics that you use at home when you don't feel well. Getting sick on vacation is basically more annoying than not going on vacation at all.
Unfortunately, though, it kind of happens a lot. According to Daphne Hendsebee, a communications and marketing specialist for the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers, it's very common for people to get sick from traveling, simply by virtue of how many germs you encounter. "You touch many surfaces covered in bacteria and viruses (door handles, tray tables in planes or trains, seats, railings, money, etc.)," she told Smarter Travel, adding that you also come in contact with so many different people throughout the whole process. What's more, she explained, "travel stress, fatigue, and jet lag can also have a big impact on your health.”
For the most part, encountering foreign germs while you travel is pretty much unavoidable, so there's no use worrying about what you can't control. But there are some specific things you should watch out for and potentially avoid, so that you put your healthiest foot forward while on vacation. Here are five of the sneakiest ways you can get sick on vacation.
1. Drinking The Local Water
...or the local fruits, or any local produce that might not have been washed free of germs. Everyone knows someone who's experienced a horrible bout of food poisoning or diarrhea abroad from drinking water in a place like Mexico.
With that said, this doesn't mean you should only eat packaged food when you're abroad. After all, one of the best parts about traveling is enjoying the cuisine of the place you visit. Instead, simply check what the standards and warnings are for the place you're visiting. For example, if you're traveling to Cabo, you might take more time checking out their warning about drinking the tap water than if you're visiting friends in the Hamptons.
You finally have the right to tell your Type A best friend that her planning is going to make both of you sick — literally. Howard Tinsley, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychology at Southern Illinois University, told Reader's Digest that packing your schedule to the brim while you travel can lead to over-exertion, which might make you sick.
"On vacation, a person can become goal-oriented," Tinsley explained — which is a good thing, sure, until it just goes overboard and makes the vacation more stressful than it should be. There's no way to directly solve this issue, besides continually reminding yourself (and your strung-out BFF) to simply relax. You might not see everything you want to see, or do everything you want to do, but you'll feel better while you're traveling, and it'll give you a reason to visit this destination in the future.
3. "Leisure Sickness"
Yes, "leisure sickness" is a real thing, guys. According to a study conducted by Tilburg University in the Netherlands, around 3 percent of people experience symptoms similar to sickness while traveling, such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, muscle pain, and nausea. The researchers wrote in their study that they believe this is likely due to the general stress that comes with traveling, including both the psychological effects of transitioning out of your usual schedule, to the physical stress of getting to another place on the globe.
The best thing you can do to combat this is to pay attention to how your own body reacts each time you travel. For example, if you notice how awful you feel after a day of traveling, try to think about whether you drank enough water, ate the right foods, or slept enough.
4. Sharing A Sick Person's Air During Public Transportation
Pretty much everyone has experienced this situation before: finally arriving to your plane or train or bus seat, only to see that the stranger sitting next to you is hacking up a lung, or covered in mucus. Blech.
Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventative medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told TIME that certain modes of public transportation, like planes, conduct their air circulation "like a sliced hot dog." In other words, you and that sick person in the seat next to you are sharing a whole lot of air during a five-hour flight.
Unfortunately, Dr. Schaffner also told TIME that there's not much you can really do about this one, besides making sure to wash your hands immediately after the flight, and even taking a shower or changing your clothes as soon as you can after you land. Let go and let live, right?
5. Not Adjusting To Jet Lag (Or Compensating For It)
Nothing makes you feel totally out of it faster than experiencing a gnarly bout of jet lag that leaves you staring up at some random ceiling at 4 a.m. Jet lag is part of the magic (and horror) of traveling, but it can also leave you prone to sickness since you're not getting enough sleep.
The solution? Don't feel guilty about napping. Ideally, you want to get yourself into the new time zone by staying up and matching this new area's schedule, according to TIME, but it's not the end of the world if you can't do this immediately. Either way, making sure you get around seven to eight hours of sleep a day is the best way to rest your body and keep your immune system strong during your travels.