As the long weekend beckons, you could be travelling right now or boarding a plane as you read this. While holidays generally bring to mind happy images of glorious sunsets, hot bikini bodies and magical mojitos, the reality is that not every vacation is guaranteed to go as smoothly as envisioned. Statistics show that we are 10 times more vulnerable and prone to illnesses while we are traveling.
Gone are the days when people were afraid of being judged as traveling germaphobes. The modern woman is a smart traveller, who will take all necessary precautions because she is savvy enough to see health as a priority. After all, the only risks a woman should take are with her cocktails (perhaps), but not her health.
1. Plane detox
Endure the stares of hostility that you may receive from fellow travelers, as it is essential to do a mini-detox once onboard. This cleansing ritual involves meticulously wiping down the cushions, armrests and tray table with disinfectant wipes. If this sounds a tad obsessive, think again. A 2015 study discovered that the tray table is the dirtiest on the plane with a jaw-dropping 2,155 colony-forming units per square inch.
Post-flight sickness is common too, due to the low humidity. Dry air interrupts the self-clearing mechanism of the lungs and the germs can get into your lungs easily.
To decrease chances of falling ill, wear a mask. For many years, scientists weren't sure if wearing a mask was effective at preventing the spread of viruses. However, recent studies suggest that they can help. A study published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases concluded that when used correctly, masks are highly effective in preventing the spread of viral infections. Family members of children with flu-like illnesses who used the masks properly were 80 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with the illness.
If your sartorial senses do get the better of you, many places sell fashionable surgical face-masks, which look perfectly presentable. Whatever floats your life vest.
2. Avoid tap water
Lucky for us, the tap water in Singapore is generally safe for consumption, but we should not take for granted that it would be the same elsewhere.
The National Health Service (NHS) in England says that “in countries with poor sanitation, do not drink tap water or use it to brush your teeth unless it's been treated.” Instead, use filtered, bottled, boiled or chemically treated water. Foods to avoid in countries where sanitation is poor include, salads, such as lettuce and uncooked fruits and vegetables, unless they've been washed in safe water and peeled by the traveller. Also, avoid ice in your drink.
Countries to avoid tap water include Brazil, Mexico and Ukraine. Even Ukrainian tourist sites advise against drinking the tap water, as their water sources are polluted by industrial and agricultural run-off. For information about sanitation levels in the country you're travelling to, visit TravelHealthPro.
3. Medication galore
Even if you run the risk of looking like a hardcore hypochondriac, it is imperative to stock up on medication if you are travelling.
Some good-to-have medication would be antihistamines like Claritin, Dramamine for motion sickness, Imodium for diarrhea and painkillers.
It is also necessary to check whether you need any vaccinations or boosters before travelling anywhere where infection and disease is a high risk. The NHS recommends getting them done at least eight weeks before you travel as some vaccines need time to allow your body to develop immunity, and others involve a number of doses spread over several weeks or months.
While insurance might seem like an unnecessary luxury, they are more important than you could imagine. Falling sick while in a foreign land is an incredibly costly affair because of the medical care that might be required.
With insurance, you can cover health care costs overseas, or even be flown home in more severe conditions. It only takes a fraction of a second to ruin a perfectly decent holiday and leave people in more debt than they were before.
It is advisable to get a policy that covers Emergency Medical Assistance in case you end up having to spend time in a foreign hospital or are in need of emergency medical care while on holiday.
At the end of the day, always go back to the basics of diligent hand washing and use of hand sanitizers, which are the best ways to ward off infection. You should only look (and feel) your best in those vacation pictures, and nothing less.