6 common travel mistakes that can make you sick

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Have you ever noticed how some people always seem to get sick when they travel? Perhaps you're even one of them! Scheduling a holiday can seem like an invitation for your body to betray you, but it doesn't have to be that way.

While certain things are simply unavoidable, there are ways to protect yourself against feeling unwell when on holiday. For example, avoiding these common mistakes will certainly help.

Drinking dirty tap water

In Australia, our tap water tends to be fairly clean and it's usually perfectly safe to fill a glass straight from the tap if you're thirsty. Unfortunately, this isn't the case in many parts of the world, and you may find yourself with an upset tummy (or worse) if you're not careful.

The best way to avoid this is to only drink bottled water when on holiday so you can be sure that it's clean and safe to drink.

The exception to this is bottled water that is bought from a street merchant, as there is a common scam that may see you having to race to the bathroom if your bottle wasn't properly sealed when you bought it. To avoid this issue, always check that your drink is as it should be when purchased, and head over to our article about common tourist scams and how to avoid them for some extra tips to help keep you safe while travelling.

Not protecting yourself against viruses

The most common illnesses for travellers to get are the common cold and the flu. This is because you're probably spending a significant amount of time in an enclosed space with a whole lot more people than you're used to being around.

While planes, trains and other modes of mass transport do their best to keep the space clean and the air appropriately filtered (with extra measures having been added following the pandemic) you're still more likely to get sick if anyone near you has a viral infection.

To help avoid this, wash your hands regularly and sanitise them if hand washing facilities aren't available. Checking travel advice for any illnesses that are common in the area you're looking to visit and taking preventative measures such as vaccination if available is wise. This should be in addition to your regular health regime and travel vaccines.

You may also wish to speak to your doctor about taking a vitamin or supplement to help boost your immune system before and during your travels.

Eating the wrong things

Street food is often delicious and can be a great way to immerse yourself in the culture of the place that you're visiting. Food safety standards, however, vary from country to country, and even when strict ones are in place, they're not always followed.

To help avoid eating something that you probably shouldn't, we suggest only ordering food from vendors that are also serving plenty of locals. This is because they'll generally know what's safe to eat (and what isn't) so your chances of getting sick from dinner will be far lower.

Missing your meds

When travelling, particularly if you're going somewhere that's in a significantly different time zone, it can be easy to miss a dose of your medication or end up with your schedule all off kilter. Depending on the medication that you take, this can leave you feeling quite ill.

In order to avoid this issue, we suggest setting an alarm that lines up with the time you would normally take your medication at home. For example, if you usually take your meds at 6pm and that translates to 10am at your destination, you would set a 10am alarm to take them. It's also important to ensure that you have enough medication to cover you for the duration of your holiday, as it may not be available in the country that you're visiting.

Stressing yourself out while preparing

Stress isn't just a bad feeling, it can also cause physical issues and even hinder the effectiveness of your immune system. In fact, when you're run down you're far more likely to pick up a bug or just feel ill in general. Between packing, organising someone to look after your house, pets and plants while you're gone and tying up any loose ends at work, it's easy to end up burnt out before you jet off. 

Try to give yourself as much time to prepare as possible to help overcome this, and avoid leaving things unfinished. This will allow you to enjoy yourself without having to worry about what's going on back at home.

Having too full of an itinerary

Finally, although you'll probably want to do and see everything, having a packed schedule while you're away can take away from the relaxation that a holiday is meant to bring.

To help combat this, try to only schedule one major activity a day. This will help you avoid overwhelm and stress about times lining up and also let you fully enjoy the things you do get up to.

Final word

It's an unfortunate reality for many people, that no matter how much they love it, travelling makes them sick. The good news is that by avoiding these mistakes you can reduce your chances of feeling unwell while on vacation. Having said that, however, it's always a good idea to keep some pain relief and remedies for common ailments easily at hand anyway.

Jessica Jones
Written by
Jess has been writing educational content for almost ten years with a focus on lifestyle content. She loves coffee, dogs and all things fitness, and can often be found with her nose buried in a book and her music blaring through her earphones.

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