TIPS FOR STAYING HEALTHY WHILE TRAVELING IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
If you’re an avid adventure traveler or someone who is interested in traveling abroad more, the question of how to stay healthy ultimately comes up. When you get out of your normal routine and visit somewhere new, you are inevitably exposed to foreign bacteria, foods, people, and places. Even if you’re healthy and in great shape, an illness or bug can easily catch you off guard, effectively ruining your trip and even potentially costing you a lot of money.
Over the last few years, I’ve been to Africa, South America, and Nepal, where these questions were at the forefront of my mind. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to be proactive both before and during your trip to avoid getting sick while traveling abroad. As any seasoned adventure traveler can attest to, preparation is key, especially when it comes to staying healthy.
Read on to find out the best tips, resources, and advice for how to not get sick while traveling in developing countries.
Preparing Before your Trip
How to Stay Healthy Before Traveling to Developing Countries
Creating good habits and preparing for your trip abroad is key to staying healthy while traveling to developing countries. Here are a few things to start doing before you leave:
- Get on a good sleep schedule of 7-8 restful hours per night to boost immunity.
- Take supplements and multivitamins – Vitamins B and D are especially recommended
- Exercise, eat well, and get outside daily for physical and mental well being, especially if you’re going to be doing physical activity or traveling to high elevations on your trip. Check out this post for tips on improving your lung capacity for hiking.
- If you have any pre-existing conditions or unchecked issues, it can’t hurt to talk to your doctor. Make sure you’re good beforehand to help you stay healthy when abroad.
Why You Should Get Vaccines Before Traveling to Developing Countries
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends getting vaccinated 4-6 weeks before you travel to a developing country. This gives you enough time to get a second dose if needed and for your body to adjust to the vaccines. Before leaving, check the CDC’s website to find out which vaccines you might need based on where you are traveling and what you’ll be doing; including any health conditions you might have.
Use the CDC’s TravWell app to access the recommended vaccines, a checklist to help you prep, as well as a suggested packing list. It will also allow you to store travel documents and record the medicines and vaccinations you’ve gotten to stay healthy while traveling abroad.
Stay up to date on any travel notices such as disease outbreaks and other medical emergencies in the developing countries that you plan to visit.
Getting Travel Health Insurance
Purchasing travel health insurance will help keep costs down if you get sick and need medical attention in a developing country. World Nomads offers great travel health insurance policies that cover things like ambulances, hospital care, prescriptions, doctor visits, and emergency surgeries. However, they don’t cover pre-existing conditions or prescription refills that you might need. Simply put, if a health emergency occurs while you are traveling, they offer policies that will keep you covered, get you help, and help things run smoothly.
Although we’ve never had to use it personally, we’ve heard good things from people who’ve purchased travel insurance through World Nomads and have had to make claims. We also love the fact that the company gives back to local communities and supports development projects across the world.
What to Bring With You to Stay Healthy While Traveling Abroad
Don’t just take care of yourself before leaving, create a kit full of everything you need and bring it with you to avoid getting sick while traveling. Not only will this make you well-equipped to handle any sudden illnesses, but it will also allow you to feel more relaxed and stress-free knowing you won’t have to go searching through foreign pharmacies. Start off on the right foot by stocking up on the travel-sized essentials (plus, extra!) in case of an emergency.
- Motion sickness pills
- Your choice of multivitamin and Emergen-C
- Saline nasal mists to fight airborne germs
- Grapefruit extract to aid in digestion
- Probiotics for better overall health and ladies, to avoid or treat yeast infections – make sure your probiotics don’t need to be in the fridge
- Plenty of bug spray – mosquitoes can carry diseases like malaria
- Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes
- Travel-sized first aid kit
- Immodium – in case all else fails and you get diarrhea
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During Your Trip
Watching what you Eat and Drink
Unsafe water and food are one of the biggest hazards when traveling to a developing country. It isn’t always because the water is contaminated but because it contains bacteria your body may not be used to ingesting.
Besides drinking from sealed containers, to avoid getting sick while you are abroad, don’t drink tap water or any unpurified water — even ice cubes. Instead carry a water bottle with a built-in purifier. Here are a few of the best:
Be aware that a filter only gets out bacteria. You’ll want a purifier that also kills water-borne viruses while traveling in developing countries.
Make sure to do the following to avoid getting sick while traveling abroad:
- Use bottled or purified water while brushing your teeth
- Don’t eat raw vegetables or salads, even in restaurants, and eat only cooked or peeled veggies. The only times I’ve been very sick abroad (in Greece and Thailand) were from salads. This is because they must have washed the lettuce with tap water. Know which foods to avoid by downloading the CDC’s app, Can I Eat This?
- If you are going to order a drink with ice, make sure the ice is made with purified water.
More Ways to Stay Healthy While Traveling
Hopefully, your planning and preparation will allow you to stay well on the road. In addition to that, make sure you continue to stay hydrated, get enough sleep, and take your vitamins regularly.
I always like to carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer on me at all times. I always use it after going to the bathroom, shaking hands with locals, shopping at markets or stores, or spending time on buses or airplanes.
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What are your tips for staying healthy while traveling? Leave a comment below or join the discussion in our Bearfoot Theory Outdoor Adventurers Facebook Group!
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