Getting ill while traveling can quickly turn your vacation into a trip down misery lane. Luckily, many common ailments are avoidable and treatable. Before traveling, stay hydrated, eat nutritious foods and rest up to set yourself up for health success. Beyond those precautions, here are a few additional tips for treating some of the most common traveler’s ailments.
The excitement of being on the road (and getting a “just back from vacation” tan) mean there may be times you forget to apply sunscreen. While sunburns often go away within a day or two, Cancer Research UK notes that even one painful sunburn every two years can increase your risk for melanoma by three. If you get sunburned, SkinCancer.org recommends taking a cool shower, using a gentle moisturizer on damp skin and keeping hydrated.
If you have a mild sinus or ear infection and still wish to fly — or if you’re prone to sinus pressure during flights — you can follow a regimen of over-the-counter medications to alleviate your symptoms, according to Dr. Farhad Sigari, an ear, nose and throat specialist. He recommends two squirts of Flonase in each nostril the morning of the flight, a dose of 12-hour Sudafed two hours prior to takeoff, and two to three squirts of Afrin in each nostril 30 minutes before flying.
The best way to get over jet lag is to spend time in the sun and stay awake during daylight hours once you arrive at your destination, according to Dr. Jack Dybis, founder of IVme Wellness + Performance of Chicago. A nap of 20 minutes to two hours also is okay. “Avoid taking sleeping pills or sedatives as much as possible, and only do so under the direction of a physician,” Dr. Dybis says. “Try to get yourself into the daily routine of the locals as much as possible, including meals and other daily activities. This will help get you back into a regular sleep cycle.”
Traveler’s diarrhea affects up to half of international travelers, especially those visiting developing nations where food preparation standards may be less strict, Dr. Dybis notes. He recommends avoiding raw or under-cooked meat, fish and vegetables, and opting for produce with a peel (think bananas and oranges). Stay away from tap water in these places, and drink bottled water from a reputable brand, checking that it’s sealed. “E. coli bacteria, a usually benign bacterium, is generally present in all of our bodies, but when exposed to a different strain than we are accustomed to, can cause diarrhea in travelers,” he says. If you have a bout of diarrhea, take Imodium or a similar product, get plenty of rest and stay hydrated.
Prevention is by far the best method to treat malaria, which is transmitted through mosquito bites and found in over 100 countries and territories. If you’re traveling to a malaria zone, consult a travel medicine clinic before your trip to see if you should take an antimalarial medication. “You can avoid malaria by using insect repellent and sleeping under a mosquito net, though really the only way to properly avoid it is to take antimalarial medication during and after your trip,” says Dr. Samuel Malloy, medical director of Dr. Felix Pharmacy.
It’s important not to take chances if you have severe symptoms from any of these ailments. Be sure to seek medical help if you experience sunburn that leads to severe symptoms like fever, blistering and chills. Also find a physician ASAP if jet lag turns into debilitating fatigue or insomnia, if your stomach ache leads to decreased urination for more than a day or two, or if you notice flu-like symptoms in a malaria zone. Barring those sort of urgent issues, your ailments might be more curable than you expected. To your health!