Sandy discusses our plans for staying healthy as we travel for an extended period of time.
Trekking the Planet is going to some of the most remote and unspoiled places in the world. We wrote this article in order to document the steps that we have taken to remain healthy while on the road. If you haven’t already, you can view the companion article entitled Staying Safe While Traveling.
Get Your Shots and Medications
Once we had a solid itinerary, we made an appointment at our local health department to discuss needed shots and medications. Before we visited we also did our homework on what immunizations were needed by visiting the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website. The first thing we were asked when we arrived at the health department was to fill out a form listing all of the countries we were visiting. I thought about writing “It’s complicated” but instead we just attached a separate sheet listing the 50 countries that we plan to visit. We were up-to-date with Hepatitis A and Yellow Fever and based on the information on our immunization cards, the nurse determined that we needed Meningitis, Typhoid and TDAP (which is a combination of Diphtheria Tetanus and Pertussis). We also got a flu shot for good measure.
Earlier we asked our doctor for a prescription for Mefloquine which reduces the severity of Malaria, as we will be in malarial zones for about nine weeks. We also built our own medicine chest of antibiotics and over the counter medications to combat many illnesses that we might get on the road.
Watch What You Drink
Once we are underway we need to watch our diet in developing countries. In these areas we use bottled or purified water for everything, including what is needed to rinse after brushing our teeth. Some hotels claim that their tap water has been purified, but we never take the chance. Many hotels provide guests with free bottled water in the room or water that has been boiled in the common areas. One thing we always check before buying bottled water is the seal on the top. Unscrupulous vendors have been known to refill used water bottles with tap water, increasing your chances of getting sick. In order to cut down on the number of plastic bottles we use, we are carrying a reusable water bottle that can be filled in the morning from water that has been boiled or purified with a small water filter that we have.
You Are What You Eat
Food is an important facet of travel. And, we love to eat! However, we are very careful with the food that we eat in developing nations. The best food is that which cooked to order. Food that has been sitting around picks up bacteria that can make you sick. We are also on our guard against food that has been cooked with dairy. This includes milk, cream, butter, eggs and mayonnaise. All of these ingredients form a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. We also tend to avoid meat. This is because, in many countries, meat is not refrigerated. Instead, we find that a good substitute for meat is another protein source such as beans, tofu, nuts or spinach. We have made mistakes in the past eating food that was offered, just to be polite, only to get sick later. We have learned to explain that we are on a very strict diet. This is usually met with little resistance. We also bring some hand sanitizer for times when we can’t wash our hands or when the water is suspect.
What to Do if You Get Sick
If we do get sick, we adhere to the following steps:
- Drink lots of bottled water – this will help to flush your system
- Stick to a simple diet of packaged food purchased from a store
- Take along Imodium which will reduce the number of trips to the bathroom
- Diarrhea can be triggered by a change in diet or too much exertion. However, if it lasts for more than 24 hours, we consider asking the hotel front desk for a doctor
If you have other tips about staying healthy while on the road, feel free to share your thoughts below in the comment box.