Staying Healthy When You’re on the Road
by Neil Raymond
It doesn’t matter whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, the last thing you want to do is get sick when you’re on the road. While there may be certain illnesses beyond your control which are unavoidable, you can take a number of proactive steps to prevent or limit sickness during your travels. Spend your time away from home, on the beach, or in the boardroom, not in the doctor’s office!
Below, we’ve put together a few basic tips to keep you healthy on the road. Most are common-sense prescriptions, but there is also thought-provoking material and solid research to back up our findings.
Plenty of Fluids
As you’ll recall from your very first biology class, the human body is mostly made up of water. Today everyone realizes the importance of staying hydrated while traveling, especially on airplanes or in hot, humid climates. Whether it’s eight glasses a day, or some other trendy metric, be sure to get enough of it when you’re on the road.
“Can I drink the water?” is always one of the first questions asked by travelers in unfamiliar countries. In most cases the answer is “no,” even in developed countries with clean water supply. Why? Because even a supposedly clean water supply could have unfamiliar bacteria in it which may not interact well with your own physiology. So, in order to avoid gastrointestinal distress on the road, stick to bottled water, no matter where you are. If it’s not readily available, ask to have your water boiled or drink tea. Americans may find this advice particularly tough to swallow, but it is also best to avoid adding ice to soft drinks while on the road. Otherwise you may run a chance of falling ill. While this advice may seem overly cautious, it beats the alternative – nobody wants Montezuma’s revenge when they could be enjoying a fishing trip, or delivering a winning marketing pitch.
You Are What You Eat
One of the best parts about traveling is experiencing culinary delights from around the world and sharing the experience with your friends. When traveling in some areas, anytime you eat anything you’re taking some risk and trusting that everyone who handled your food has done so with care.
When you’re on the road, you don’t want to be eating bowls of plain white rice while everyone else tries that great sashimi, so there are a few steps you can take to limit your risk and still have an enjoyable gastronomic experience when you’re on the road.
Definitely avoid raw foods of all types when on the road. If you’re going to eat fruits, only eat those with a thick peel, like an orange or banana. Ensure that meats are well-cooked, too. High temperature is a great way to kill bacteria which cause illness – so be sure that you or your chef is preparing meals properly.
Keep on Movin’
There is a growing school of thought that “muscle is medicine” and that engaging in regular load bearing exercise not only makes you stronger, but also boosts your immune system. While many view trips as an opportunity to slack off their exercise program, there are plenty of ways to keep fit while traveling.
Bring a jump-rope in your travel bag – it doesn’t take up much space and is an effective, quick, and fun workout. Besides that, you can do push-ups, squats, lunges, or any number of bodyweight exercises which require no equipment at all and can be done on your hotel room floor.
For something more low-key, just take the stairs to your hotel room or meetings. Walk instead of taking a cab – it’s a great way to learn about a new city anyway, and it’s far better for your health (and pocketbook!)
Finally, the most important way to stay healthy on the road is to stay safe. The number one cause of serious health issues among travelers is motor vehicle accidents. Be sure to buckle up your seatbelt in a motor vehicle, even if it’s not the custom or legal requirement where you’re visiting. Wear a helmet (and shoes, not flip-flops) when riding a motorbike. Never drive after drinking, and follow the local rules of the road.
Before you travel somewhere, be sure that you know the emergency phone numbers, and have someone you can contact who speaks the local language that would able to assist you in an emergency.