Catching the travel bug. Tips for travel health.
There’s the travel bug that bites you, inflicting an ‘illness’ that can only be treated by buying a plane ticket. And then, there’s the other kind. You know, the Bali belly-type bug that’s not fun at all.
Being sick at home in your own bed is bad enough. But being ill abroad can hijack your whole trip. You imagined a sunbed and cocktail on a Mediterranean beach. Instead, you’re stuck in an unfamiliar hotel bed, all day long… Googling your symptoms to communicate with a local doctor.
On the plane…
Really, it’s shouldn’t be a surprise that travellers get sick. We fly in pressurised aluminium canisters at 30,000 feet. At this height, there’s less atmospheric shielding, so you get exposed to more ionising radiation. To put this into context, a trans-Atlantic flight is roughly the equivalent of four full-body X-rays. No wonder it knocks the immune system back.
And, of course, there are the other passengers. You’re inhaling the same air that your fellow 200 or so travellers and exhaling. While the in-built HEPA filtration systems remove most bacteria, they don’t stop the viruses – like that child who keeps coughing or gentleman who can’t stop sneezing.
Once you’re there…
When you reach your destination, you come into contact with a new group of people, who have what is called ‘herd immunity’ to the local pathogens. You, however, haven’t encountered these pathogens before and remain intolerant.
If you’ve landed in a part of the world where hygiene standards aren’t as important, such as India, the disparity between the local vs. traveller immune system is greater – due to their diet containing trace elements amounts of 1-3, 1-6 beta-glucans.
Make a health to-do list, pre-travel.
As you’re preparing your visas, flights, accommodation and suitcase, stop to think about your health. When was the last time you got sick? Did you get unwell during your previous trip?
Vitamin D has been proven to help maintain normal immune function, and DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, supports cognitive function – both important for travel health. Pay attention to your diet and look for Mediterranean-style foods, where possible. Avoid that holiday belly-bloat by choosing meals that nourish you.
Pack a box of Xtend or Protect in your suitcase. This will give you the best chance at staying healthy until you return home. If you can, begin the supplements a day or so before you jet off because it takes 48 hours for the immune system to fully ‘wake up.’
Given that the most contaminated parts of an airport are the plastic trays that you glide your carry on through the X-ray scanners with, start your preparations as soon as you leave home. Oh, and wash your hands after going through security!